Pension Wise is not yet two months old, but already it has been written off by some industry commentators. I suspect that part of this is frustration from journalists who cannot get data out of Pension Wise – who remain in post election Purdah.
After a lot of noise leading up to April 6th, Pension Wise had to shut up for the election, it being the pensions lovechild of Clegg and Cameron, Osborne and Balls. Pensions turned out to have little (overt) impact on the election though I suspect that a lot of “shy Tories” considered the Pension Freedoms part of a general reason to vote Conservative. Osborne won the day, Webb didn’t even win his seat.
But even after other Government figures came out of Purdah, Pension Wise remains in lock-down, take-up figures are not published and HMRC simply mouth bland platitudes about positive feedback from those who have attended.
Finding people who have been is hard, they are clearly not the kind of people financial advisers talk to; straw polls at each of the Retirement Income Planning meetings I chaired in the past fortnight, did not solicit a single adviser who had met someone who was Pension Wiser.
As the pension providers sponsoring these sessions, smugly announced, the numbers reported to have booked Pension Wise sessions were (in total) about half the average number of calls that an insurer would expect in a day.
In the absence of evidence to the quality, it is journalistic nature to smell a story – small wonder that the Pension Wise advisers I know, are under oath not to talk to me!
The fledgeling’s still in the NEST!
But now is not the time to kick Pension Wise. Unlike NEST, who’s role was clearly defined and who’s funding secured over time, Pension Wise is a fledgeling – and one with no nest.
Now is not the time to kick Pension Wise , partly because it is young and vulnerable but mostly because we want it to grow up strong and healthy.
I say we want it to grow up strong and healthy and I guess I’m being a little assumptive. I suspect there are many people who would like to see Pension Wise fail, for selfish reasons. They would rather see people take advice, or take no advice or guidance and buy blind. Either say, for many people I speak with, the reason for disliking Pension Wise is unclear.
If Pension Wise is a threat, it threatens no one but those with ill-intent. If Pension Wise is a distraction, it is simply getting in the way of the commercial interests of the financial services community. I do not think it threatens or distracts people from making good financial decisions.
Pension Wise – “30 years too late” or a stitch in time?
As my colleague David Joy says, “Pension Wise, if it has a problem- is 30 years too late”. We should have been engaging and educating people about the need to save hard and well since the last pension revolution- the introduction of personal pensions in the mid eighties. That we’ve made such a mess of personal pensions, has been – to a large part- because we tried to empower people to take financial decisions before we’d engaged them in the business of funding their later years or educated them about how much was needed of them to do this properly.
What Pension Wise can do – for most people – is make the best of a bad job. But that is better than nothing. For some people it can stop them making really bad decisions, like being a muppet about tax, or giving their pension savings to a scamster. It cannot help people work out which type of drawdown to enter into, or how to protect pension wealth or how to invest money. You need trained advisers to do that.
If advisers are wise, they will back Pension Wise, if they are foolish – they will run it down.
When the great British public get the hang of Pension Wise, they will like it – as they like the Citzen’s Advice Bureau and The Pension Advisory Service and even the Money Advice Service. They see these as places where they can get impartial help on matters without being sold anything and without the need to feel an idiot for asking questions.
The same goes for http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and for the social media mavens Paul Lewis, Annie Shaw, Sarah Pennells and (till her recent elevation) Ros Altmann. All these people have immense followings and increasing influence as they find their way into the columns of the newspapers we read and onto the screens we watch (from TV to smart-phones).
Pension Wise fits naturally into this financial architecture and could – were “pension experts” not being so sniffy about it, become part of the UK advisory infrastructure.
Now is not the time to kick Pension Wise, infact it’s the time to promote it – as this excellent video promotes it.