Payroll folk and Pensions should be friends

Well ok, it’s not as glam as the farmer and the cowboy in Oklahoma, but there’s that same edge between payroll and pension people .

This blog’s about how we’re getting it together- thanks to some lucky chancs- some serendipity!

Serendipity plays a big part in my business affairs. Like a cowboy, I rove the wide open spaces looking for adventure and when farmers come across my path I say “howdy doody”.

When Martin Kornacki , Editor of Payroll World phoned me one morning in June, to ask if he could publish a blog, I said “sure” and “howdy” and he said  “why don’t pension people talk to payroll people, especially as payroll is critical to the success of auto-enrolment”      ( I guess the cowboy thing falls down at this point).

And it’s true. So long as I’ve been employed I’ve got a payslip and first cash, then a cheque, then a direct transfer into my bank account. I pay payroll as much attention as backing music, but boy if they screw up, I’m the first on the phone giving them hell. “Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen”- I ‘d say – “like rhubarb”.

Pension people have been ignoring payroll people since this whole Pension Reform thing kicked off.

Which kind of explains why payroll people are rather wary of me and my kind.

So to continue this little tale of serendipity, it turned out that Martin had been trying to talk with posh pension consultancies and had been snubbed (don’t bother me with your grimy little payroll world – don’t you know who I am),

My blog had contained some thoughts on payroll

From an operational point of view- will the stress and strain of opt-outs , refunds and the constant cycle of enrolment and re-enrolment do payroll’s head in?  Last week , KPMG a leading adviser on auto-enrolment,  admitted they’d failed to pay a single employee on time in April. If that’s what it’s like in peacetime-watch out when the hostilities break out!

To the friendless payroll world, this appeared a conciliatory statement and I was soon beating a path to Axe and Bottle Court in the Borough for a heart to heart with Payroll Ed!

Within a few days , it was sorted, First Actuarial and Payroll World would convene a roundtable of the payroll great and good to put the payroll world to rights and align it to the pension world.

And that’s what happened!

Me and my cronies Alan Smith and the missus, Stella Eastwood and her payroll man, Andy Gould – beat a path later that month to London Bridge to spend a morning chewing the fat with payroll luminaries from the payroll powerhouses of Ceridian, Logica, Northgate, Bond, Sage, Star, Midland HR and Cintra– to name but a few!

After a couple of  hours “getting to know ya”, things started hotting up. We told the payroll guys that they’d been asleep at the wheel, they told us they’d been busy sorting out the Government’s Real Time Information project.

They told us that no one in the DWP or the Regulator was listening.

We told them to stop whingeing.

Frankly, I’m surprised we weren’t thrown out on the street!

In the end we came up with a plan. We’d help them get a meeting with the DWP and in particular Steve Webb, they’d help us understand why without their help , clients would be staring at £10,000 a day’s worth of fines for  mis-staging auto-enrolment.

We had a sandwich lunch and realised we should be friends.

So we pushed off after agreeing to meet up again in July to get an agenda sorted out for the proposed meeting.

Slowly and thanks in no small part to Martin Kornacki and to Norman Green of Logica and Simon Parsons of Ceridian and Andy Gould of Centrica and a whole load of other really nice people, we pension people began to get it.

Payroll is different, these guys can’t not get it right, every payroll period be it a month or a quarter or a week is a calendar of deadlines, each critical to us all getting paid, these payroll people are meticulous. No fudging and budging for them, these guys eat, live and breathe it and the word professional does not begin to describe how they go about their business!

We did meet again – down the Borough. We hammered out five concerns about how auto-enrolment is due to work and we hammered out five solutions to the problems we’d arrived on. We got Payroll World to write it up and within a week we had a two pager to send to the minister.

On September 13th, a bunch of payroll people are going to see Steve Webb. They are not going to whinge, they haven’t got a petition twice the length of the Magna Carta, they are going with the determination to make this auto-enrolment thing work. Work operationally and most importantly work for the millions who are going to depend on it working if they are going to get the kind of retirements they want.


a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it

Yup- that just about sums it up.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Payroll folk and Pensions should be friends

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