Hard won BT Hybrid pension scheme wins two prestigious awards for “innovation”

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT


CWU executive member Ken Woolley receiving the WBS Award alongside BT’s pensions director, Kerry Shiels (left) from the awards ceremony host, the comedian Naomi Cooper  

The ‘Hybrid’ pension scheme that was painstakingly negotiated by the union in order to retain an element of defined benefit (DB)  saving rights for thousands of deferred members of the BT Pension Scheme (BTPS) has been singled out for praise in two separate pensions awards.

Proposed and brokered by the CWU in tough talks that ultimately led to the far-reaching pensions agreement that was ratified by members in May 2018, membership of the BT Hybrid Scheme (BTHS) was offered to around 18,000  BT and Openreach team members who were active Section B or C BTPS members when it closed for future service.

Designed to provide a pension option with lower investment risks than those inherent in pure defined contribution (DC) schemes, the BTHS opened in April 2019 with a deadline of September 30 that year for anyone wishing to join it.

Highlighted to members by the union as a potentially beneficial alternative to the default option of joining the BT Retirement Savings Scheme (BTRSS), more than 3,000 deferred BTPS members ultimately opted to join the  ‘Hybrid’ scheme – which innovatively combines both DB benefits, like those formerly afforded by the BTPS, and DC benefits, like those offered by BTRSS.

It’s precisely that innovative nature of the split between DB and DC benefits that has now been recognised in two separate pensions industry awards – the latest of which saw the BTHS win top place in the Workplace Savings and Benefits Awards’ ‘Best Benefits Strategy/ Innovation of the Year category.

CWU T&FS Executive members Ken Woolley and James Samuels, who are both members of the  scheme’s Governance Committee, represented the union at last Wednesday’s  (October 6) presentation ceremony at the Sheraton Grand in London’s Park Lane.

Earlier this summer the BTHS had previously beaten off stiff competition to emerge as overall winner in the 2021 Pension Age Awards category for the most innovative pension scheme.

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr observes: “It’s worth remembering that, had it not been for CWU’s persistence in promoting the idea of a hybrid pension scheme to an initially sceptical BT, the BTHS would never have got off the starting blocks.

“The fact that the innovative approach of the BTHS – painstakingly negotiated by the union in difficult talks both before and after the closure of the BTPS for future service accrual in 2018 – is now being recognised by pensions industry experts is the best possible vindication of the approach we took at a difficult time for members.”