It was a disappointment on touring the British Library on Thursday to be old that on this tour I would see no books. I had hoped to see the Nowell Codex which is the only surviving copy of the epic poem Beowulf.
My disappointment dissipated the following day when I met with a latter day Beowulf.
Morten Nilsson who is the boss at NOW pensions. I imagine the fictional Beowulf to be a calm and hair man who slays monsters and dragons for fun and wanders round the frozen wasteland like an arctic Clint Eastwood.
Morten’s dragons may not be so cinegenic nor as epic, but you can only slay what is put before you and in Lineker-speak “the boy’s done well”.
Who’d have thought that a Dane could set up shop with nothing but a brightly coloured logo and a focus on good member outcomes and three years later have 10% of the auto-enrolment market?
Who’d have thought he’d have done it with just one fund and without any of the gismos – corporate wrap, employee portals and full SIPP functionality?
The clinical excellence of NOW’s product positioning is now being matched by the excellence of its delivery. With Staffcare inside the product and online implementation, NOW is living the dream and any employer struggling to stage because of problems with their provider (or problems with a lack of a provider) would do well to go straight to NOW.
But NOW have always been gracious in sponsoring choice. They co-exist with NEST and do so without the state funding, they co-exist with the leading insurers without the brand and they co-exist with established the resurgent Peoples Pension and the smaller master trusts sitting on our Pension PlayPen platform and helping us deliver online choice.
If this is sounding like an advert, it is because it is. Pension PlayPen will only accept advertising from organisations whose products it believes in and adopt our collaborative approach. We like to thank those like NOW and Legal and General who have sponsored us in our first year of trading.
But on to the substance of my conversation with Morten. We talked of the inevitable consolidation of the single employer occupational DC schemes and weaker master trusts . We talked of the need to formalise governance guidance into “the law”. We talked of individual consolidation of small pots to help organise people’s finances in the New Annuity Framework.
We talked about how guidance can de delivered without it becoming a sales pitch for advice or for one provider’s solution over another. We discussed how guidance should be paid for.
And we talked about the default offerings of the future, capable of managing not just people’s savings but their spendings. Morten laughed when I reminded him of Victoria Derbyshire’s comment that she hated saving and loved spending and referred to her pension contributions as “spending on retirement”.
Morten reminded me of a conversation with PIMCO who (when promoting their decumulation offering) had made the brilliant point the only time people get certainty about their future income is at retirement.
Morten commented that we all live with uncertainty over our pay; many of us seen our basics fall in the past five years, many of us experience periods where we have no income at all and often we have to take jobs on a lower wage than we have previously enjoyed.
And yet we have an expectation in retirement of a certainty of income which is quite different from anything we have been used to before.
Morten and I talked about what people really want in retirement, of how people can earn in later years and how spending changes over later years.
And with a viking langour, he delivered his coup de grace
“I’m thinking slowly”.
Amidst all the turmoil of battle, Beowulf always remained calm and I suspect he thought slowly too. The consideration with which NOW delivers and will continue to deliver to our expectations depends on Morten thinking slowly.
This article first appeared in http://www.pensionplaypen.com