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One million calls and counting – our Workplace Helpdesk

We catch up with Danielle Farley, a Workplace Helpdesk consultant, to learn more about her experiences and how she helps pension members to save and invest with confidence.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in. These articles are intended for employers and HR professionals, not for individual investors.

It’s been a busy 18 months for our helpdesks and our Workplace team have guided pension members through big changes in the markets, the furlough scheme and much more besides.

Our Workplace Helpdesk handle any and all questions that HL workplace pension members might have.

After the busy lunchtime rush, I caught up with Danielle Farley, Workplace Helpdesk Consultant, to find out more about her and the people she speaks to each day.

Here’s what Danielle had to say.

What did you do before HL?

I studied Economics and Finance at Cardiff University. Once I’d graduated, I worked in the hospitality and service industries while I looked for the perfect job in financial services. It’s where I found a passion for helping people.

I knew HL was where I wanted to start my career in financial services. It was the natural next step to move into an industry that I studied in such detail at university, with the new skills I had picked up along the way I’ve worked on the helpdesk here for 3 years now.

I provide assistance and answer queries for people who are often at big, potentially life changing, moments in their life.

What kind of people contact the helpdesk?

Variety is the spice of life. In any given day, I could be speaking to someone who’s just been enrolled into their first ever pension scheme or speak to someone considering their retirement options after a 50-year career.

Clearly these people will have different motives for calling. Understanding the ‘bigger picture’ behind people’s questions is really important.

It’s not every day you need to consider what to do with 50 years’ worth of savings. I’d like to think that when I get there, I’ll be able to talk through my options with someone.

You end up seeing an entire spectrum of people, all at different stages of their careers each with different types of queries.

The next phone call might be the most important call that person makes today, or even the most important call they make that year.

What types of queries are your favourite to help with?

I enjoy talking to people who want to learn more about investing.

Learning about where your pension’s invested is the first step to understanding how to make your pension work for you.

When speaking to those curious about when their contributions go, it often leads to conversations where they leave much more informed than when they started.

Whilst we don’t provide personal financial advice on the helpdesk, we have lots of different tools to help people make their own informed choices. It means I’m never short of something to talk about.

I think helping people to understand their pension investment options is really important. How your investments perform has a direct impact on the amount of money you can expect when you retire. Learning about the risks involved with investing is vital to making a choice that you’re happy with.

Before I worked here, I didn’t know that my pension was invested in stocks and shares, so it’s easy to put myself in client’s shoes and see things from their perspective.

I was taught about how my pension worked and it’s rewarding to pass that knowledge on to other members who need support.

Ultimately, people are looking for reassurance. They want to know how their decisions affect their future. I don’t think that’s exclusive to pensions.

What are the most complex types of queries?

There are two main topics that come to mind, and for different reasons.

Firstly, the lifetime allowance (LTA) – it’s a complex area of personal finance and taxation, and one that’s often misinterpreted. The LTA affects different people in different ways depending on any protections that people might have.

The conversations I have with people about their allowances tend to be quite detailed.

When interpreting the LTA rules, it’s common to think you’re instantly liable for a tax charge once you’ve exceeded the allowance, which can be alarming. It’s nice to put people on the right track with that and explain the rules in simple language for them.

The other complex topic that I talk about a lot is the tapered annual allowance.

This is where the amount you can put into your pension year is ‘tapered’, or reduced, if you’re a higher earner. The rules are complex here too – different portions of your earnings are considered when you calculate your allowance.

I think that complex rules are easier to discuss with a real person. It’s nice to be able to interact, to make sure you’re on the right page.

What makes the Workplace helpdesk different?

You need to have a good breadth of knowledge, as you never know what the next query will be. It keeps me on my toes. I like being an expert in all things pensions.

I also get the opportunity to work with the wider Workplace team too, which I enjoy.

Often pension members will call after they’ve had 1-2-1 meetings with an HL Financial Wellbeing Specialist. It’s great to see how the dots connect and how we help members to build their confidence in their pension in different ways.

What are your future plans?

I’m currently studying towards becoming a financial adviser. I know that when I look back in a few years, I’ll see my time helping pension members on the helpdesk as invaluable.

I’ve completed my Investment Management Certificate 1 and 2 and I’m currently studying towards a Diploma in Regulated Financial Advice which is offered by the Chartered Institute of Insurance.

It helps that my job involves talking to people about their pensions. It feels like daily revision.

Thanks to Danielle for taking the time to speak to me, it was great to get a better idea of the sorts of things that HL pension members talk to our helpdesk about.

Learn more about how an HL Workplace Pension could be right for your employees.

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Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in. These articles are intended for employers and HR professionals, not for individual investors.

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