An “agnostic” is someone who knows he cannot know and so gives up trying to find out.
You hear the phrase “pension agnostic” bandied around at the moment, mainly from the providers of ancillary services that help companies auto-enrol.
If you key the term into google you get to the sites of the HR flex providers. It is their proud boast that the software that they provide works with any pension. When I just looked , Staffcare were #1 on the search
I can understand a firm such as Staffcare, distancing itself from the long-term outcomes of auto-enrolment- the pensions people buy. Staffcare provides compliance software to businesses that keep them on the straight and narrow.
But when one of Staffcare’s vendors sets out his stall by tweeting
You’re not saving for a pension; you’re saving for yourself. Forget about products (they don’t exist anyway); think about yourself.
…I get confused – I thought I was saving into a pension plan?
I had to turn to an article in the advisory trade press to get more detail.
But for Steve Bee, the founder of JargonFreePensions.co.uk, what matters most in the post-RDR world is not products but service. The RDR signalled, quite simply, the “end of product” he said.
This I find very strange indeed.
There’s a touch of the Vicki Pollard about this; to paraphrase…
frustrated IFAs, unable to derive an income from products reinvent themselves as service providers, and snarl “bovvered?”.
Maybe I’m being harsh, but this obsession among Corporate IFAs with platforms , flex and AE middleware seems a nonsensical over-reaction to the end of commission . And it’s taking them down a blind ally.
IFAs are great with people, their unique ability is converting complex financial concepts like ” a pension” into a tangible product – “happiness in old age”. The “product” of retirement savings is “a lifetime income – protection against living too long”.
Corporate IFAs who forget this heritage and turn themselves into software salespeople sell themselves short.
We can know what makes for a good “pension”; it’s not hard – contributions, investment and managed decumulation (to sound actuarial). What is hard is to insist that “good and only good” happens.
Knowing “what good looks like” is the opposite of agnosticism.
To get people saving proper amounts into proper workplace pensions with proper drawdown is what financial advisers are uniquely placed to do.
“Pension agnostic” a phrase suggests not just that we cannot know what good is but don’t care. Faced with NEST and NOW and auto-enrolment and the loss of commission, financial advisers give up on pensions and throw their toys out of the pram? They go and sell HR software?
To be fair to Steve Bee, he has campaigned for thirty years to get IFAs to better understand pensions – and by extension to get pensions advice to the people who need it most.
But like Brian, his followers may follow him up the mount, listen to his sermon and come away convinced that
“blessed are the cheesemakers”.
IFAs cannot all ( as St James Place claim to have done) turn their back on the mainstream to focus exclusively on the “high net worth”.
Nor should they be exclusively focussed on technology solutions
Rather than run away from the product, they should embrace mainstream pensions – they are by far and away most people’s most important source of savings.
IFAs auto enrolment needs you!
Your skills are needed by the million small and micro employers needing help with staging and by the 11m people employed but not saving and by everyday folk saving into rubbish pension plans.
You IFAs need to get your mojo back and rediscover what made you successful. You cannot be pension agnostic, you must become “product” focussed again. But this time the focus must be on the end product of their advice- the pension, rather than the commission it pays.
To this aim, firms like mine, who advise employers, must create the opportunities for you to deliver in the workplace. We must start opening the doors not pretending we’re the “gatekeepers”!
- Dear OFT…. (henrytapper.com)
- Never mind the width – feel the quality! (henrytapper.com)
- OFT launches investigation into charges on pensions (telegraph.co.uk)
- Enrolment may double pension income – Confused.com (confused.com)
- Pension providers come clean on fees (telegraph.co.uk)
- Steve Webb: ‘Capping pension charges would be like capping the price of baked beans’ (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Private pensions on way out claims researcher – Confused.com (confused.com)
- “Pensions aren’t dead yet!” January pension play pen lunch (henrytapper.com)
- atheism versus agnosticism (larrysmusings.com)
- The dam is full – manage the sluices (henrytapper.com)