Helen Dean’s appointment as the new CEO of NEST , seems to have been greeted with a stifled yawn by the Pensions Press. Helen has the lowest of profiles, no social media presence, hardly a speaking engagement and a declaration of personal interests on the NEST website that suggests she has been unconflicted in her work with the DWP , PADA and recently NEST for the past 30 years.
She is, what is politely called a safe pair of hands, though Malcolm Tucker could well have included her in his posh and useless category “Shitehead revisited”.
My only meeting with her was to wish her well after she’d addressed a meeting of the Pension Network some years ago. She fulfilled her commitment , got her taxi and legged it.
On the face of it, Helen Dean is going to be something of an anti-climax after the exuberant and entrepreneurial Tim Jones. Do not expect Helen to front a rock band or be last at the bar. Her’s is an ordered world, where things get done.
This is of course exactly what NEST needs. NEST is, from now on, about sweeping up the mess private providers leave below the auto-enrolment table. Within a few days, NEST will publish its accounts , from which we will learn how much of the £600m loan granted it by the tax-payer is now drawn-down and get an idea of the current burn rate.
Helen Dean knows about the DWP, about responsibilities to Ministers and like both Minister and almost every other DWP related head, she is a woman.
I expect to see some strong household management from NEST to ensure that it remains part of the AE solution and not the cantankerous and spikey unilateralist it currently appears to be.
In particular, I hope that Helen will listen to calls from payroll to adopt the PAPDIS standard for data transfer and to work with groups such as Pension BIB and Friends of Auto-enrolment towards common solutions. NEST needs to re-integrate itself into the main AE initiatives and I hope Helen will be spending time with Lesley Titcombe, Charles Counsell and Neil Esslemont, as well as the Minister, to this effect.
Many will be disappointed not to see a more dynamic appointment, I am not one of them. Tim Jones needs to move on and NEST needs certainty of leadership, the transition has been a slow one. Many thanks to Tim, not least for having the patience to remain strapped to the NEST mast when he could have been steering his own ship. I hope he can get on with his plans now, and if he gets a gong for what he’s done with NEST- it will be richly deserved.
The internal appointment not only means a quicker succession, it means continuity. Dean has been head of marketing and proposition in the Executive Team for a while and with Charlotte Clark she is one of a band of DWP civil servants , wedded to the project for nigh on ten years now.
She may not be extravagant, she may be a little severe, but she is precisely the person that NEST needs right now and we wish her well.