Simon Vella
Profile Pensions
Chief Marketing Officer
"Four values underpin Profile Pensions’ ethos: simplicity, being human, empowerment and responsibility."

“The pensions industry is broken”, proclaims Profile Pensions’ website. Started in 2013 in response to what the founders felt people were crying out for: impartial pension advice, Profile Pensions promises no obligation, no pressure advice from qualified financial advisers.

Simon Vella is Chief Marketing Officer at Profile Pensions. He sometimes gets teased by his team for taking his work home and listening to recordings of customer phone calls whilst making dinner. There’s a serious point to the exercise however: one of the principles that guides Profile Pensions is how it listens to its customers.

What does it mean to Profile Pensions to be a human brand? “Really understanding who our customer is. We talk to them and listen. We align the business to what the customer is telling us,” says Simon, which is the reason he monitors those customer calls so closely.

Four values underpin Profile Pensions’ ethos: simplicity, being human, empowerment and responsibility.

“Pensions are highly complex so we keep things as straightforward as we can. We keep customer communications simple, we break everything down. We ask ourselves at every stage, will people understand it?” Just check out their Terms of Business. Far from being an epic saga of legal jargon, you’ll find just six key things you need to know. If anything else arises that customers feel they should have known, Profile Pensions’ motto is ‘on our head be-it’, taking full responsibility for not making customers aware.

Advice is given to customers over the phone. To keep the interaction human, advisers aim to have a conversation instead of conducting a sales transaction. “We listen, we empathise. We take time to understand. How do we keep those conversations human? Much of that interaction is unscripted. We guide prospective customers in the right direction. We try and help, even though they may end up not being a customer.”

What are the challenges in executing across the four Profile Pensions values?

Simon explains that they turn each value into organisational behaviours. Profile Pensions then measures performance on whether staff members are living and breathing those values.

“Our values aren’t a checklist, they’re what we do every day. The values should become a daily habit. In meetings or organisational culture, they should be second nature to the organisation. We shouldn’t have to think about them,” he says.

In an industry where there is a lot of complexity, form filling and red tape, Profile Pensions aims to be transparent. It is clear about fees and charges and ensures the customer is informed of everything they need to be aware of. “Our benchmark is for all communications to be clear, fair and not misleading,” says Simon. But it’s not without its own challenges. “We need to tread carefully – we have some big debates with our compliance department. But I must ask myself as CMO, are we living up to our principles? I constantly question whether we are doing enough.”

The pension industry has suffered from a lack of trust in the past. Profile Pensions publishes their Trustpilot reviews to be more transparent and build trust. “It’s rare for companies such as ours to use Trustpilot because the reviews are out of our control and they can’t be edited. So it’s risky, but it’s the right thing to do. It keeps us open, honest and customer centric.” The brand monitors Trustpilot daily and strives to hit scores of 9/10 or above.

Simon left banking for this role because he was attracted by Profile Pensions’ sense of purpose. “We have a clear vision, which is to get everyone in the UK into the best pension possible. We exist to do that. We want to be the good guys. I’m motivated by that purpose. That’s how we want our team to be. To get excited about working here and making a difference.”

Tips for being more human

  • Don’t just read your brand tracking reports or customer feedback – actually listen – to real-time, real-life communications.
  • Live and breathe your values – is being more human one of them?
  • Simple communication and remaining compliant aren’t natural allies, but you have to keep challenging the standards to put people first.

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