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With around 32,000 businesses across the UK having staging dates for automatic enrolment in the 2014-2015 financial year alone, demand for advice and support in achieving compliance is increasing. We spoke with Jane Freire from JMF Financial Services to see how automatic enrolment is affecting them.

Based in Southampton, JMF Financial Services has been offering financial advice to businesses and businesses owners, as well as individuals for over 30 years. The team offer a full range of services to help their clients achieve their financial goals.

As more and more businesses start preparing for automatic enrolment, Jane is seeing an increase in the number of clients enquiring about suitable pension providers to help meet their needs.

“As a general rule, we usually recommend NEST to our clients” Jane commented. “The flexibility and ease of use NEST offers fits into our ‘plug and play solution’ approach. NEST suits many of our clients’ profiles and is quick and easy to get set up online which is a great benefit. The sign up process with certain other pension providers can be quite tedious, and we want our clients to have access to the most streamlined solution possible.”

The Pensions Regulator is urging businesses to start preparing for automatic enrolment 18 months prior to their staging date. However, a recent IRIS survey of accountants and payroll bureaus found that lots of businesses are leaving preparation to the last minute, with 59% of participants saying their clients had not even enquired about automatic enrolment yet.

“We find that people are greatly underestimating the size and complexity of automatic enrolment. It can be a very daunting task, especially with smaller organisations. There is a clear knowledge and skills gap, and the later businesses leave preparing, the bigger this gap becomes.”

Only 2% of accountancy and payroll bureaus surveyed by IRIS said that they felt fully confident answering their clients’ questions about automatic enrolment.

“Many firms may have issues answering clients’ questions, but we took a proactive approach to educating ourselves to ensure we wouldn’t have this problem” Jane said. “We attended a number of different training seminars, as well as reading information we collated from a number of different sources to make sure we were up to speed.”

Education is not the biggest hurdle to overcome in the preparation for automatic enrolment according to Jane however.

“Education is a vital step in getting yourself ready for automatic enrolment, and this can be achieved by attending training seminars. One of the biggest and most difficult tasks however is the integration of systems and data. Due to the complexity of some of the tasks required for assessment, integration between payroll and pensions is hugely important.”

IRIS has been working closely with NEST to ensure that its systems integrate with each other, making the transfer of data as seamless as possible.

“We have recently recommended NEST to a couple of clients who already use IRIS payroll software, as the data output taken from payroll can be easily transferred into NEST. Certain other payroll providers are quoting up to 25 week turnarounds for creating custom reports and this simply does not fit into the timeframe of many of our clients.”

“The main piece of advice we give to clients who are just starting their automatic enrolment journey is to ensure they are working with the right provider for them. There are a range of different systems and process involved in automatic enrolment including payroll, assessment, communications and more.”

“By educating yourself on the legislation and processes and ensuring you are working with the right providers, you can make the transition to automatic enrolment compliance as stress free as possible.”

IRIS offers a referral programme specifically for IFAs. To find out more about this programme please contact the IRIS team.

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