Cometh the hour;- the Regulator gets its man

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 In a  recent blog, I bewailed lack of leadership in the Pension Regulator’s Defined Contribution team.

And it was a more general lament for the paucity of knowledge and vision throughout UK financial regulation – the FSA have offered little leadership either.

I argued that unless someone of substance was found quickly, the Pension Regulator would be letting the DWP and in particular Steve Webb down , as they looked to build on the great start to auto-enrolment.

I’m really pleased that they have chosen as their new Executive Director for DC – Andrew Warwick-Thompson. Andrew is precisely the person who the Regulator should have appointed.  He really knows his stuff, is strong and usually right.

Andrew was one of a group of exceptional consultants at Hewitt around the turn of the last century (fin de siecle pension gurus?). He came through the ranks alongside Steve Mingle, Andy Cox, Kevin Wesbroom, Ann Freeman and Raj Mody. He married Gillian, one of the best DC investment consultants Bacon and Woodrow I have known.

Andrew qualified as a lawyer in the late eighties and his forte has always been governance. He was one of the first to see how insurance platforms could be used to reduce fund management fees, reduce risks and deliver open-architecture to occupational pension schemes.

One story which I heard from him and from others concerns the Equitable Life. It demonstrates what kind of a man he is and why he, above all others, is right for the job.

Andrew had discovered well in advance of the eventual House of Lords ruling , that the guarantees offered by Equitable Life were extensive enough that , were interest and annuity rates to fall, they could make the Society insolvent.

His firm had advised many of its clients to invest in Equitable Life and Andrew was determined to bring the threat to policyholders and to his own firm’s reputation to the attention of his colleagues. He wrote of the matter to his colleagues in the company newsletter.

News of this article was passed to the Society’s Chief Actuary, Roy Ransome, principal architect of what proved to be Equitable’s demise. Instead of answering the issues that Andrew raised, Ransome slapped a personal writ on Andrew. Andrew, for a short time suffered a lot of reputational damage at his firm as a result.

Even today, the bravery of Andrew’s stance and indeed right he was, has yet to be fully acknowledged.

Amidst all the waffle of the press release, Bill Galvin hits the button when he links Andrew’s appointment to the introduction of auto-enrolment. There is much to do upgrading existing trust and contract based workplace savings plans and Andrew has the insight and strength of character to cut to the chase (as he did with the Equitable).

If this finds its way onto your desktop Andrew, well done! Here is my  agenda for you

  1. Establish what makes for a good workplace pension saving  plan
  2. Help companies with finding such a plan
  3. Do all that you can to help companies integrate their plan as “business as usual”.

Regular readers of this blog will know those are the issues that bother me most and those of First Actuarial and the recently incorporated Pension PlayPen.

The group of consultants Andrew was a part of ten or fifteen years ago have continued to influence the way pensions in this company are delivered. It is good to see Andrew being given such a crucial role at such a crucial time and we should do all we can to ensure that his work is effective and returns pensions to the respect in the public eye they once enjoyed.

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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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