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The Business Magazine July 2024
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Challenging current thinking on pensions and benefits

Challenging current thinking on pensions and benefits
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James Keclik, Head of Isio’s Reading Office, explains why the Thames Valley region is proving the perfect home for a firm with ambitions to do things differently.

Step off the train at Reading Station and you’ll be met by the iconic Thames Tower, in which Isio’s Reading office can be found on the 10th floor. With views over the surrounding Chilterns, the office hosts expert teams delivering pensions, benefits, investment and wealth advice, working with a range of companies in the Thames Valley region.


Keclik joined Isio – when it was still part of KMPG – in 2009, and it was during this time that he first appreciated the potential of this unique regional economy.

“We have such a mix of sectors and business types in the Thames Valley, from some of the biggest multinationals through to an extensive network of established and trusted local firms,” he said. “It’s the best of both worlds. We’re able to be immersed in a vibrant and fast growth community here whilst enjoying easy connections to London, Heathrow and the rest of the South East.”

And it’s a growth story echoed by the headcount in Isio’s Reading office – one of 10 regional Isio offices across the UK. By October, staff numbers will have increased by around 50 per cent to almost 90 in just over four years. Many are apprentices from the local area and graduates from Oxford, Reading, Surrey and Southampton Universities. The next step is to strengthen ties with local schools to identify the next generation of talent early.

“We offer the team something unique, a combination of career progression and team longevity, plus being part of a fast growth business with a challenger mindset. You’ll never hear us say ‘that’s the way we’ve always done things’ – we’re all about exploring new and innovative ways of delivering for our clients,” Keclik said.

People in the Isio Reading office certainly choose to stay too, 50% of the local leadership team joined KPMG/Isio as graduates and have progressed through to senior roles within the business.


The Reading team provides diverse expertise to address some of the biggest challenges to a mix of trustees, employers and individuals on a range of services, spanning pensions and investment advice, reward and benefit support and wealth planning.

One such example is the need to provide a reward and benefit package that is truly valued by employees. Director Jonathan Gilbey, who leads this work in Reading, says it’s an area that’s a real challenge for employers. Recent Isio and YouGov research* found that employers are losing up to £15bn per year on unused employee benefits, with only 23 per cent of the private sector employees surveyed saying their current package meets all their needs.

*In conjunction with YouGov, Isio surveyed 7,674 private sector employees in June 2023 on a range of issues surrounding employee benefits and personal finance concerns. Responses for don’t know or prefer not to say answers have been removed, unless explicitly shown.

“Benefits is one of the biggest areas of spend for most organisations and has such wide-ranging consequences, not least for attracting and retaining the right people,” Gilbey said. “Employers must evaluate their current reward offerings to ensure that all employees not only have access to the right benefits but also the awareness and confidence to use them.”

Benefits are one piece of the puzzle when it comes to employee engagement, both for the Isio Reading team and the work for their clients. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) also plays a crucial role and Isio has robust sustainability principles at the heart of its business purpose, outlining clear commitments to its clients, its people and society.


Isio is able to draw on these principles to inform the tailored advice it offers clients, whether this means guiding the investment profile of a pension fund or the wealth management decisions taken by an individual.  “The advantages of a proactive longer-term strategy can deliver better results for trustees, sponsors and individuals alike,” said Keclik. “Many businesses are grappling with the legacy financial and governance challenges of their defined benefit schemes and require clear and confident end game planning. As a result, operational and financial consolidation are common themes in the conversations I’m having in the local market.”

This all ties into what Keclik sees as the core mission statement for the team in Reading. “It’s that genuine value-add,” he said. “We’re helping our clients deliver a solution. In this industry, clearly you must be good at the technical side, but it’s so important that we have that pragmatic mindset too. It’s a natural part of our DNA as a truly independent adviser. And it means we’re always acting in the best interests of our diverse range of clients here in the Thames Valley.”


Isio is one of the largest pensions and benefits advisory businesses in the UK. It has been challenging current thinking on pensions, benefits and investment advice since it launched from KPMG in 2020, with a relentless focus on innovation and improvement in this market. For more information visit or contact James Keclik here.

james keclik

James Keclik, Partner[email protected]


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