It’s a phoney war- what’s happening on the other side of the Channel?

accounting web

I am still surprised how people are organising themselves to do their jobs.

You’d have thought that the accountants and book-keepers who provide financial stability, get people paid and manage the tax affairs of Britain’s 1.25m employers would be the last people to mobilise on social media. But in fact they were among the first, thanks to the visionary people at Accounting Web; an organisation that provides a backstage pass to anyone interested in the grunt of running a small business.

They are MoneySavingExpert for the small and medium sized enterprise, albeit they haven’t quite found their Martin Lewis (yet)!

Their model is not pure journalism, it’s a social media model that reaches out to best practice and through a strict process of quality control, edits contents for its 500,000 regular readers.

Speaking with Andy North and Ben Smith, the enthusiastic editorial team of the website, it’s not hard to understand how the business has grown from a small-time mailing outfit to the maven that it is. When it comes to the big issues for small employers, RTI, VAT, payroll , accounts filing and PAYE, these guys extract literally thousands of comments from their membership. In this vibrant febrile world “questions and answers” are conducted by the people doing the work- not regulators or consultants. Everything is about individual experiences, mini case studies which build understanding in a way that printed media simply cannot.


I went down to Baldwin Street in Bristol to visit parent company Sift Media (they do similar work for HR people). Round the back of Baldwin Street in St Nicholas is a Bohemian covered market and some great cafes. John Cabot used to go to Church round here before pushing off round the world- his web was slower but something of the excitement lingers!


What surprised me is that amidst all this industrious bustle, auto-enrolment is hardly mentioned, the odd thread here or there about payroll compliance but no systemic engagement. I asked Ben why this was, he told me that most small employers are and their advisers are still learning RTI (not particularly successfully by the sounds of it). Staging auto-enrolment and setting up auto-enrolment are the other side of the hill.

We discussed how to get early engagement and the answer came loud and clear, there is simply no-one interested; a search on pensions suggests plenty of posts but little comment. Ben thinks this comes down to leadership, there is no presence on the site from the Pension Regulator. Press on related tags and there is nothing


Private firms are little better represented. The only Pension Firm that I could spot making an effort were ITM who have set up a company page complete with their blogs and tweets to promote their auto-enrolment solution EASE. Good for ITM and Guy Ridley, their forward thinking MD.

So while those who are managing the grunt for the vast majority of employers in this country, go about their work, it appears that the pension industry is on another planet! This reminds me of how it was with the payroll software companies and large payroll teams in 2012. The roaring silence that surrounded the introduction of auto-enrolment in the summer of that year was akin to the phony war before the Battle of Britain.

I have a nasty feeling that while we pensions folk talk among ourselves, the real problems are stacking up on the other side of the Channel!


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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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