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How iPSL used a Flex Fund to engage employees in their flexible benefits scheme and drive equity

iPSL formed in 2000 as a joint venture company between Unisys, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group. They are the market leader in digital cheque processing, delivering the shared service model to multiple banks, seamlessly processing over 190m cheques to a value of over £250bn annually. 

The clients are also Shareholders, and so the business model is not a traditional profit-making entity – iPSL is not a retail, revenue generating model. They employ c.600 permanent employees, as well as temporary and contractor workers. 

Employees
Locations
Products

“We recognise that iPSL services a declining payment mechanism in cheque, but it’s been really important to us continue to seek opportunities to modernise, whether in relation to our working environment, colleague development or our overall employee proposition. When it comes to our benefits package, it would have been easy just to use the market benchmarking data and simply look to match other businesses, but for us it was important to find out what would truly make an impact for our colleagues. We spent a lot of time getting that qualitative feedback to give us a true picture of the story and the numbers we had only backed it up.

We could never give everyone everything on their wish list, but we want to make sure we remain a competitive and engaging company to work for, with a truly inclusive benefits offering. We’re getting smaller in terms of our overall headcount, but we know that we’re still powered by our people - by giving every colleague a Flex Fund we’ve let them make their own choices of what would best suit them, rather than us telling them what they should have. It’s been a fantastic success, not only from a commercial perspective for the business but most importantly in relation to colleague engagement – and the impact it’s had at an individual level.”

Ema Urlic, HRSC & Reward Manager, iPSL

The challenge

In 2018, iPSL began its digital transformation programme moving paper-based processes online. Partnering with benefits expert Benefex, iPSL launched the Choices digital benefits platform to combine existing and new benefits.  

However, the desired engagement wasn’t achieved when launched in 2019, and many employees who logged in didn’t submit benefits. 

In 2022, armed with new platform statistics, and having obtained company-wide feedback through a thorough consultation exercise that year, iPSL overhauled its voluntary benefits offering.  

They found colleagues liked the voluntary benefits, but financial barriers prevented benefits uptake among lower-income employees; just 19% selected benefits compared to 40-80% in higher paid roles. Company budget constraints restricted pay raises and additional company-funded benefits may have external impacts for some colleagues due to Universal Credit implications, but iPSL was determined to address salary-benefit disparities and provide a truly flexible and inclusive voluntary benefits scheme. 

An innovative solution

A new Flex Fund 

During employee consultations, iPSL discovered its death-in-service benefit wasn’t well known by colleagues yet was costly for the company to provide. So, they decided to uplift the level of the core contractual cover but by removing the additional benefit amount allowed for funding to be reallocated to a new Flex Fund of £300 per employee that can be used towards any voluntary benefits (excluding pensions).  The Flex Fund is available at the same amount to every employee, regardless of job level, salary or working hours.  

Companies usually offer voluntary benefits or a fund; iPSL offers both, allowing colleagues to use it to take up voluntary benefits they otherwise couldn’t afford and take control over their finances, supporting them during the cost-of-living crisis, and creating a truly inclusive offering.  

New branding and engaging communications 

To highlight their positive changes within voluntary benefits, iPSL rebranded the Choices platform to YOU+ (appendix 2). Retaining its vibrant brand colours, the bold new name emphasised a colleague-centric approach, reinforcing inclusivity through people imagery. 

To introduce the new platform and Flex fund, iPSL initiated a year-round communications campaign, including regular emails, guides, prompts on the existing platform, and the establishment of Champions to effectively spread the word (see appendix 3 for examples). For the relaunch, accessibility was also increased through a new app, providing colleagues with on-the-go access. 

Creating champions 

iPSL wanted help to promote YOU+ and the Flex fund, so they recruited champions from across the business. Champions helped get the message out, while playing a key role in the development of the new brand; this approach helped with promotion as it was something they could truly get behind.   

The Champions also helped to create another channel for colleagues to voice their ideas for the future development of the scheme.  

Continually evolving their voluntary benefits offering 

In 2023, iPSL introduced Group Income Protection as a core benefit and made 4 new voluntary benefits available in 2023: Activity Pass, Car Maintenance, Partner Life Assurance, and voluntary PMI (available to those colleagues who don’t receive company funded PMI).  Following employee feedback after the first enrolment, they also introduced 2 new benefits in 2024 – Will Writing and Personal Financial Consultation.  They now have 21 voluntary benefits available, and employees can use the flex fund to select any benefits. 

Success

Success

YOU+ and the flex fund have been extremely well received by colleagues: 

  • Those active on the platform increased by 24% to 96% (from 72%, and against a 77% target). 
  • Those who selected a voluntary benefit increased by 57% to an impressive 92%. 
  • Benefit selections amongst lower paid employees increased from 19% in 2022 to 91.9% in 2023 (a 383% uplift), comparable with all other levels across the business. 
  • Technology vouchers saw the biggest increase in engagement – from take up of 20 in 2022 to 284 in 2023. 

Colleague engagement has increased 

 iPSL recently conducted a post-enrolment survey. Here are some highlights: 

  • 72% of colleagues said the benefits enrolment was better this year compared to last year. 
  • 67% of colleagues said iPSL’s scheme is better than previous employers. 
  • 80.3% rated the information provided ‘good’ or ‘very good’. 
  • 86.4% rated the ease of submitting their choices ‘good’ or ‘very good’. 
  • 86.4% rated the new YOU+ brand ‘good’ or ‘very good’. 

And not only has attrition gone down, but iPSL also made an indicative saving of c.£49k in National Insurance costs, based on employee benefit selections for 2023 – up 24% vs the previous year.  

YOU+ and The Flex Fund are a resounding success

96%

of colleagues are active on the platform, up from 72%.

92%

of colleagues selected a voluntary benefit, up from 57%.

iPSL logo

383%

uplift in benefit selections amongst lower-paid employees, up from 19% to 91.9%.

72%

of colleagues said the benefits enrolment was better this year.

£49k

indicative saving in employer National Insurance costs.

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