One of the most pernicious words in the English language is “exclusive”. It serves no purpose but to create a false sense of security.
Of all the areas of public life, the links between Government, employers and tax are most in need of a common purpose. Whether it be the collection of sales tax (VAT) , the information needed to collect income taxes (RTI) or the pension tax that is auto-enrolment, we need open Government and open processes that can be shared by all.
That is why Pensions Bib created PAPDIS and why organisations like pensionsync, AE Exchange and Ease have developed ways for data to integrate from one system to another without exclusions.
The creation of common ways of doing things leads to a common purpose. “There are many ways to the father”!
Set against the common purpose is the commercial purpose of each player to create unique value for itself. Provider competes with provider, adviser with adviser and payroll agents and accountants look to outdo each other to pick up market share.
I do not see competition as exclusive unless those that compete seek to create monopolies along the way. Should xyz provider announce an exclusive deal with XYZ payroll or ABC middleware that excluded large parts of the market from accessing the product, I would question whether this was in pursuit of a common purpose.
I might be convinced if I believed that this tie had a good overall impact. So we have accepted that from time to time, certain providers have offered themselves exclusively through certain channels to preserve the integrity of their service (Royal London are not generally accessible directly by the public, you can enrol using their product through certain advisers- they have limited on-boarding capacity.
The Pension Trust offer their Smarter Pension to charities, social housing organisations and other not for profits but they exclude organisations that do not fit this profile. Again I have no difficulty with this, they serve their niche admirably.
But I have deep reservation about excluding choice. Any proposition that starts with an aim to force large groups of employers down a channel based on the interoperability of the provider and a specific payroll is creating a false alliance, the exclusion is anti-competitive, effectively creating cartels which impede the market’s development.
Pension PlayPen campaign against the pre-selection of certain providers (to the exclusion of others) whether this is created by deals between trade associations, middleware, payroll or any other means of distribution.
We do not subscribe to their only being “one way, one truth, one life….there are many ways to the father”.
I was recently informed by a Government official that – though it would be distributed to all parties- the Pension PlayPen submission to Government could not form part of the consultation process because I had published it on this blog.
Apparently our thoughts, and those of you who contributed to our thinking through mails and comments, were tarnished because they were in the public domain.
As with the exclusivity of special deals in auto-enrolment, so this ludicrous rule. The point of Open Government and particularly of consultation is to air and share thinking.
In the 14th century, the poet William Langland wrote a long poem “the vision of Peirs Plowman” (the inspiration for this blog). In it he saw in a dream a “feelde of folke” working to a common purpose. It was a vision of order in a medieval society very different from our own. But the order was about common purpose, all who worked in the feelde worked for the common weal.
Auto-enrolment is a feelde of folke – 1.8m employers , 12m new employees – all engaging with pensions afresh. There is no room for exclusion, this is an inclusive vision and we need to put behind us the ideas of exclusive arrangements.