Making hard easy.


That would be what I’d put on Steve Webb‘s gravestone – not that I wish the good man dead!

There is a fluency about Steve’s thinking that cuts through complexity and delivers complex ideas simply “pot follows member” “sexy cash transfers” “baked-bean pricing” – all of Steve’s catchphrases are grounded and fun – which is a refreshing change in pensions and indeed in politics.

There is a feeling that in business, such an earthy approach is inappropriate. Some would call the Pension Play Pen an un-business like name but there are plenty of business to business brands that have succeeded in the internet age because they have disrupted such notions.

Richard Branson revealed on Radio 6 last week that the original title for his record business was “slipped disk” and he had to be cajoled into calling it Virgin by his nubile PR team all of whom claimed they were.

In a complicated world, we look for simple ideas that make hard easy.

And making easy hard is the natural tendency of the insecure. Most people in pensions feel vulnerable and insecure. They are worried about losing their job/contract/client/prospect.

And as they worry, they tighten up and it all becomes harder. The sentences get longer , the words get longer, the syntax gets convoluted. Just speaking with pensions experts about pensions is a hard thing to do!

And what happens when you try make it easy,? You get mowed down by a 10 tonne dumper truck called compliance – that’s what!

Oh Lord make pensions simple – but not yet!

(Not while I’ve got years left in my career, DB pension rights still to accrue, PMI and NAPF dinners to attend!)

The mean reversion of pension talk is to a language that nobody wants to listen to. Until we set the default to “easy” , we will revert to “hard”.

If Steve Webb had a compliance officer he would never open his mouth, he would never speak unscripted and he would never talk the language of the common man. Proof positive, look at his predecessors and try to remember anything they said.

Steve Webb is not insecure, he has the courage of his convictions which were forged by years getting to understand pensions. He doesn’t always get it right and he has a habit when he’s wrong of telling people he can’t be bothered discussing it further (which is annoying) but he is always straightforward.;

Consequently we are getting pension leadership in a way we have not got it before, the hard is being made easy. We have a simplified state pension system on the way, we have an auto-enrolment system which is getting there, we have an IMA and ABI who are talking the language of the customer (glory be), we even have an NAPF which is showing a little interest in the world outside the wall-garden of its membership.

Which means we might be swinging back towards a positive view of retirement saving, for the first time in a couple of decades.

Let’s keep making the hard easy and support these positive things that are happening to pensions today.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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7 Responses to Making hard easy.

  1. Alan Ritchie says:

    Henry, love your point about the gap between people’s need to understand and engage versus how easy our industry makes it. Check out the following for some further ideas on this:

    • henry tapper says:


      I really like your paper so I’ve gone and stuck it on in our comms section. I was a bit worried when i found out most of your keywords had more than two syllables but it was alright. I bet it was fun working with that alan higham character eh!

      • Alan Ritchie says:

        Super thanks Henry. I hadn’t realised the connection with Alan Higham but am now more familiar with your ‘top thinkers’ page! All those long words were his by the way… 🙂

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