Corporate Myopia

myopia“Myopia” medically means short-sighted, in business a company is myopic if it cannot see the bigger picture. Businesses get short-sighted easily enough, typically when they do not need to try very hard and can concentrate on maximising return on easy wins. But the best businesses look to look out further and do not assume because they have succeeded in the past, they own the future. Yesterday I gave an instance of corporate myopia which verged on megalomania , (the delusional thinking that comes from being granted power and leads to you thinking you are always right). It is the hallmark of the totalitarian state and of large corporates who consider their right is to be right.

The tyrant’s downfall

If megalomania is the extremity of myopia then Shelley’s great epitaph to tyranny is the logical conclusion of this blog

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,

The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains: round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Jonathan Bull – a retiring gentleman

DCF 1.0

Last night I had the great pleasure of shaking the hand of Jonathan Bull, a gentleman of the City who , for nigh on forty years has worked for Thomas Miller, the Lloyds brokers. As Jonathan pointed out, he has had three careers with the firm, firstly as a marine broker, then as a risk manager in social housing and latterly as the CEO of the Occupational Pension Defence Union, this last role being the one I know him for.

Jonathan moved with the times and reinvented himself thrice. Now he will reinvent himself a fourth time as a retired person. I’m sure he’ll be as good at that as he has been in his last three jobs.

Tim Jones – a gentlemen entrepreneur

Tim Jones

At Jonathan’s reception was Tim Jones, someone who is also moving on from being CEO of NEST to being  a whizzy tech person. He demonstrated to a bemused Jon Stapleton and me, apps that conjured money from the interweb and dispersed it to other mobile phones with the flick of Tim’s dextrous fingers.

The technology he is bringing to market will work with Fiat currencies not the imaginary stuff he was working with last night. Tim is shrewd enough to see that mobile telephony enables  us to be our own banks and for personal verification to rest with the finger, the retina and even the gait of the owner of the phone.

As pension administrators struggle to pay claims in a fortnight and demand countersigned copies of birth , death and marriage certificates before signing cheques, Tim’s technology will simply walk past, like the man with the magical passport walking past the airport queue.

Lesley Titcomb – a radical regulator

lesley titcombe2

The myopia of our pension industry is caused by us having it very good for a very long-time, to the point that we would like nothing to change – ever. But things are changing; Lesley Titcomb of tPR sees the staging of the 1m employers who’ve never had a pension as her biggest challenge, we don’t even have a DB regulator at the moment!

George Osborne spoke recently of making financial services part of the solution (not part of the problem), the bank-bashing Martin Wheatley has left the FCA, there is a new air of can do about the place.

Everywhere there is change, tax- regulatory focus – customers. The myopia of the pensions industry is they see nothing to change.

What do Bull, Jones and Titcomb have in common? They all know how to move on!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Corporate Myopia

  1. David says:

    The myopia extends well beyond the pension industry.

    All large corporates suffer with it. Establish a market, legislate competition out of it.
    They become slaves to the share holders desires, just as we then become slaves to ourselves through corporate representatives and our own elected representatives enacting legislation that probably isn’t in societies best interests.

    I can bet you that most of the people tweeting Lizz Truss today about bees, are also the same people who have investments and pension funds in the companies lobbying to allow these nasty pesticides to be used to make sure profit margins are high for those very same people!

    The hallmark of a totalitarian state is one in which people are too stupid to act to make their future better, and allow others with ill and greedy intent, in any measure, to take advantage of them.

    But while the fundamental engine of the pension provision system today is a pyramid scheme, there is little we can do to change the future for the better without a lot of people losing a lot of money.
    And far too many people will still put their wallets before their ethics and the quality of the world in which their children will have to live.

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