“This Monty Python – is he one of ours?”

dead parrotThere hasn’t been much of the Thatcher tribute Tsunami that I’ll remember, the eulogies are self-serving, the future’s more interesting than the past.

But the story of the speech writer trying to explain the “dead parrot” sketch to Thatcher is brilliant. Apparently Thatcher not only didn’t know the sketch but she had a vision of Monty Python as a political machninator that might or might not have been a Thatcherite.

And anyone who has tried to sell with conviction rather than sell consensus knows how easy it is to divide the world into camps, “black and white, with or without, for and against”.

Warren Buffet has made it his life’s work to find consensus positions and bet against them. Which is why I chuckle when I hear the consensus of support for him.

“Find a consensus and bet against it” is a pretty good strategy for anyone trying to succeed in the pension industry.

Right now, the consensual bandwagon sitting in the town square from which snake-oil is being dispensed is called “middleware“.

If all the firms selling middleware into the pensions market into the UK employment market were to hit their targets we would be a country of 200 m people. Everywhere I turn I see another dire warning about some regulatory action that can best be avoided by purchasing xyz software (universally accepted as a panacea for all enrolment ills).

But when I talk to Sage about Sage 50, I get no sense of panic. The software houses that supply the accountants and the bureaux who manage the long tail of SME and micro payrolls are not panicking. There’s is the “frontware” and for those who think of payroll data belonging to payroll, their’s is the obvious solution.

Unless of course you want to outsource your payroll issues to the far end of the supply chain – to the provider of your Qualifying Workplace Pension Scheme. In which case you most rightly will call this service “endware“.

Pension Reform is supposed to shorten not lengthen supply chains. The attempt by the pensions industry to intermediate payroll with middleware looks doomed for the vast majority of propositions.

And yet the purpose of auto-enrolment and the RDR and the reforms we have yet to see (watch this space) to help employers chose good pensions with certainty, is about good pension outcomes, not about “hoop-jumping”.

The shopkeeper who entices customers like John Cleese to debate the vivacity of the parrot , could of course be doing business elsewhere. The absurdity of the debate had passed the prime minister by because she had better things to do (like minding our shop).

The parrot we’re missing is out of earshot in the back room.

Middleware- the parrot in the cage – is well displayed. But the parrot is at best unwell and will soon be no more and I suspect that Monty Python is one of ours.

An adult human foot is about 28 centimetres long.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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10 Responses to “This Monty Python – is he one of ours?”

  1. Andy Heath says:

    Henry – thanks for prompting me to watch the Dead Parrot sketch again.
    Anyway. keep probing the mechanisms, and debunking the rubbish – remember, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

  2. henry tapper says:

    Thanks Andy

  3. Pingback: “This House” is a pension playpen | The Vision of the Pension Plowman

  4. Sika says:

    Monty Pythons are just great. Did you know that the expression “pythonesque” made it into the dictionaries? Isn’t this great!

  5. Pingback: Parrot Sketch Included! | Deo Volente

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