Helena Jones, MRM’s Head of Institutional, offers insights on client offerings, pensions, and the importance of enhanced communication in the industry.
Tell us about your role at MRM?
I lead our offering for clients in the institutional space, which encompasses asset managers, investment consultants, pension trustees, scheme service providers and re/insurers.
My days are pretty varied – spent doing everything from disseminating research reports, to ghost-writing articles and pitching stories to the media.
Pensions and investments have always been a big area of interest for me, so alongside my role at MRM I volunteer for NextGen – an organisation aimed at supporting the next generation of industry leaders. I also write about pensions for personal finance blogzine Mouthy Money.
What interests you most about pensions?
It never ceases to amaze me how multifaceted the process is of ensuring members get paid the right amount, in the right way at the right time.
I love learning about the role my clients play in this process (be it investment, communication, administration or another area) and how they’re adapting and innovating to suit the changing needs of pension schemes and end-members.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the pensions industry at the moment?
For me, it has to be encouraging Gen Z and Millennials to contribute more. I’m 32 and it scares me how many of my friends don’t know what they’re paying in each month and how much they’re on course to get in retirement. A lot of them think they’ll be sorted as they’re watching their parents retire on DB pensions.
MRM’s 2023 Young Money study (out soon) shows a stark discrepancy between the number of people who think they’re on course for a prosperous retirement and those who know about their workplace pension. We’ve got to get punchier in telling people that pensions aren’t what they used to be and what that means.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
I’ve had some fantastic role models who have taken an interest in my career aspirations and actively helped me get opportunities to learn and grow. I feel very lucky to have had that.
What is your favourite aspect of working in financial services?
The messages my clients want to communicate are often highly technical, but of great importance to the wider industry. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than taking a complex concept – or piece of content a business thinks won’t have wider appeal – and translating it into something more digestible and engaging for the people it’s trying to reach.
The absolute best bit is when you see a story or campaign you’ve worked on sparking debate – it’s times like these you really feel like you’re making a difference to the overall sector.
What one tool/gadget/app do you find essential for working?
I can’t get through the day without an old-fashioned to-do list!
What would you do first if you received a windfall of £10,000?
I’m getting married in December, so it’d have to go on a honeymoon.
What one thing would you do if you were Chancellor for the day?
I’d put in place a compulsory training programme for business owners and line managers (not too dissimilar from trustee toolkit) to help them have more impactful conversations around pensions with employees.
If every employer was explaining how the company pension scheme works to those being enrolled for the first time, as well as raising the prospect of increasing their contributions at the point of every pay rise, I think this would make a big difference.
What is your favourite podcast?
I absolutely love ‘How to Fail’ by Elizabeth Day. Always worth a listen on a bad day!
What are some core principles you always live by?
I’m a big believer in putting your best foot forward with every opportunity that comes your way. There are opportunities for personal growth in everything – but only if you go all in and give 100% effort.
Also, time enjoyed isn’t time wasted!
What does the perfect weekend look like?
I have a Golden Retriever named Cheddar and am never happier than when we’re off exploring new spots together. Living in rural Surrey, we’re spoiled for choice with green spaces!
I also love to paddle-board and try to get out on the water as much as I can.