Key notes: an inside look at the first annual Benefits & Pension Summit

When drastic changes like this happen, people should be questioning it, said both Mary Ann Baynton, director of Great-West Life’s Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, and Karen Liberman, executive director with the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. It’s often a sign of a mental illness.

Many times, the illness stops people from recognizing they have a problem. Managers should address employees when these situations occur and advise them to see a physician.

“Eighty to 90% of mental illnesses are treatable and not terminal unless we make them so,” said Liberman. “Time to treatment and access [to it] is critical.” — April Scott-Clarke


Opportunities in Equities

Investors can expect moderation in equity returns, as firms have reached the limits of what they can gain from cost-cutting. Future profit growth will have to stem from increased earnings.

“Over the next two years, I’m thinking 10% is what you should expect,” said Chhad Aul, vice-president with State Street Global Advisors, adding that people should expect the volatility we’ve seen to continue.

The good news is that in Q1 2010, 85% of firms in the S&P 500 beat earnings expectations, and Aul predicted this trend to rise. Equity valuations are also supported by the sheer quantity of cash sitting on corporate balance sheets. The recession encouraged management to guard its capital, building cash reserves of more than 11.5% of total assets in Q1 2010, compared to just 8.5% in Q4 2007. “This leaves corporations in a strong position to increase dividends, share buybacks and other methods of returning capital to shareholders,” he said, noting that the market could see a return of a mergers and acquisitions premium. — Steven Lamb


Communicating Effectively with a Multigenerational Workforce
Communicating with plan members is simple if employers adhere to three steps: know the message, know the messenger and know the recipient, said Christopher Cartwright, vice- president with the Financial Education Institute of Canada.

However, plan members’ typical response to messages can frustrate the effort, as many have been raised to be skeptics, he said. Members either assume they’ve heard the message before, don’t perceive its relevance, fear it or simply don’t believe it.

As a result, credibility is a huge issue. “Who delivers your message?” he asked. “HR? If HR is the source—and they’re typically perceived as bad-news people—the message may be tainted even if it is a positive one.” The message is part and parcel with the messenger. He or she must be unbiased, trustworthy and free of any hidden agenda.

© Benefits Canada

Keywords: pension reform, mental impairment