“Another girl- another Planet” – the wonderful world of NEST


Helen Dean, the new CEO of NEST has set out her stall in the pages of Professional Pensions.

Much of what she says is intelligent and helpful

Helping .. small and micro employers means seeing AE through their eyes. Instead of asking hundreds of thousands of employers to read up on pensions administration systems, memorise technical information, and attend courses on pensions compliance issues, we believe we should modify our approach to fit with what they already understand.

This means two things. We need to help employers self-serve quickly and efficiently, or help them to outsource their AE admin cost-effectively to third parties.

In other words, we can neither ignore of spoon feed these pension fledglings, we must empower them to do things for themselves.

To help employers self-serve NEST has been working with the payroll industry to understand how pensions and payroll can work together. Although smaller employers might have little engagement with the pension sector there are very few that do not have to deal with payroll.

This is disingenuous.  NEST has been working with the payroll industry, as have all the other pension providers. The PENSIONS BIB project , in which NEST participated, produced two common data standards, PAPDIS and PAPDIS 1. NEST has rejected using PAPDIS file formats in favour of going it alone. It’s one planet for NEST and another world for the rest of the industry.

We are currently in testing and development mode with payroll software providers for a new data integration process known as web services. This will enable employers’ payroll software to pick up and crunch all the data needed for AE and send it across to their pension provider automatically. In short, it will be possible for employers to comply with their AE duties through their everyday payroll package. We are still developing this with the payroll industry but we aim to have it up and running ahead of the peaks in the staging profile early next year and it should be of benefit to the thousands of additional employers staging.

The data integration process is not common to NEST, NEST just have their version. All serious workplace pension providers are building the applications to integrate with payroll. Many are using the PAPDIS 1 files to integrate with the engines intermediaries are building, but not NEST.

Not all employers will want to self-serve, however. Our research shows that nearly three-quarters will want to involve an intermediary like an IFA or accountant. Many expect support as soon as they start preparations. Others have said they require ongoing support, with 60% expecting ongoing help with administration. This will mean high levels of demand and an opportunity for intermediaries.

Providing appropriate, straightforward and hassle-free resources to meet this employer demand is a challenge. This is why we launched NEST Connect, a free tool developed to help intermediaries support employers. It is a solution that gives intermediaries their own identity in the NEST system, allowing them to provide support and assistance to their AE clients.

NEST Connect keeps IFA in the loop but on NEST’s terms. On Planet NEST, where NEST is the only provider, “independent” advisers can work with their clients in glorious isolation from the progress made from other providers.

NEST Connect should be pioneering a means by which NEST can be compared to NOW and Peoples and L&G and Standard Life and Aviva and all its other rivals so intermediaries can allow employers to make informed decisions on whether NEST is best.

This is of immediate relevance to large employers, many of whom use NEST as part of a complex workplace pension strategy. NEST seem to have given no thought about how they can report on their performance using  self-service tools to such employers and their advisers.

Instead, NEST is spending tax-payer’s money, encouraging a world of one – Planet NEST.

We believe these initiatives represent the sort of innovation needed to cope with the volumes of employers staging over the next few years, especially now the figure has increased.

They also demonstrate the importance of collaboration.

Neither would have got off the drawing board without the hard work of many partners and we hope our efforts will make it easier for other schemes to do the same. Working with others in the pensions sector and beyond, and with everyone focused on the same goal, we hope this next stage of the AE journey can be just as successful as the last.

I have emboldened NEST’s claim to collaborate because I fundamentally dispute it

  • NEST has chosen to go it alone and not adopt the PAPDIS or PAPDIS1 file formats
  • NEST has not adopted the Master Trust Framework
  • NEST has created a unique and very confusing charging structure making comparison difficult
  • NEST is not co-operating on any common reporting project to make ongoing governance easy for advisers or for large employers.

NEST is Government funded and has so far spent £400m of tax-payers money. It jolly well should be on the money in terms of technology. It should be leading the way (not lagging behind as it is on MAF). It should be collaborating, not establishing competing data standards). NEST should be helping intermediaries compare it with its rivals, not creating a world of it’s own (where it mistakenly pretends it has no rivals).

This myopic view, so evident in Helen’s article, is actually damaging to auto-enrolment. I hope Otto Thoresen (NEST’s Chairman) reads this and takes this criticism seriously.

We need NEST but NEST needs us too. It cannot go it alone, it must be part of the community that sees auto-enrolment through. It cannot live in its own world and we cannot allow this fantasy world- Planet NEST- to perpetuate itself.



For those who are interested in fantasy world’s, there is in fact a Planet NEST(or) – you can read all about it here.

And here are the wonderful Only Ones with their cult hit “another girl-another planet”

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to “Another girl- another Planet” – the wonderful world of NEST

  1. R Bartlett says:

    NEST has one fundamental difference to all other schemes. It cannot and will not refuse an employer that wishes to use NEST due to the PSO that is in place. I think some of your comments regarding lack of collaboration are a tad unfair? Helen Dean and her team have made every effort to collaborate with trade associations, employers and the adviser community. As head of A/E at Intrinsic I can say via personal experience that NEST have been very helpful and have worked with us to deliver an excellent adviser solution. There is more than enough business for all the main providers and the capacity crunch means that NEST is more relevant than ever. As you are aware I am an ex employee of NEST but I think that puts me in the position of experiencing the world of NEST from an internal and an external perspective.



  2. henry tapper says:


    NEST are great, they are supportive, have a conscientious investment division, do great comms and their admin works but…

    they are not right for many employees
    they need you have a UK bank account – not good for the offshore maritime sector
    they need employees to have NINOs for them to get PRAS – not good for employers with migrant workers
    NEST cannot aggregate and NEST pots cannot follow member
    NEST is very expensive for employees close to drawing benefits.

    They have to stop promoting themselves as the answer, they are one of the answers.

    Employers can choose NEST and they will probably be alright, but what if an employee asks “why didn’t you consider somebody else?”.

    The “nobody got sacked by choosing IBM” line may work for middle managers but it doesn’t cut much ice with employees on whose behalf you are acting.

    I am having lunch with Helen next week and will tell her to her face what I am saying in my blog, NEST are uber-competitive and are using the £400m of our money to create a dominant market position. In my view they are creating a “NEST and the rest” culture which steamrollers intermediaries and advisers down their pathways.

    About 20% of all transactions going through http://www.pensionplaypen.com end up with employers staging NEST and I’m happy that those employers can say with authority (and the backing of an actuarial certificate) they chose NEST because it was best for them and their staff.

    I would like to think that all NEST clients can say the same. I’m not sure they can.

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