Making “PLSA” more than a name-change.


“What’s the point of disruption?”

This is the kind of exam question that I’d love to answer. Just sit me down in some massive gymnasium with a pen and paper and I’d hand you back 2000 words an hour later which could be condensed to one

– YES!

The Peasant’s Revolt that brought to the attention of Richard II and his court, the plight of agricultural workers was a bloody failure. The revolting peasants were generally hung and it was business as usual for the Court in the next couple of years. But it’s generally acknowledged that Watt Tyler and his unmerry men advance the lot of the common man much as the Tolpuddle Martyrs did 500 years later.

I will get out of exam mode and come to the issue of the day! Is the pension industry, as represented by the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (nee NAPF), in a position to make a difference or is business as usual a slow decline into irrelevance.

Certainly there will be many stalwarts struggling with the new PLSA acronym. What of “Funds”? Where if not “National”?

There are good answers to these questions. Most of ordinary people’s pension is unfunded – there is no fund to pay the State Pension (putting aside notional arguments about NI). Most public sector pensions are unfunded and frankly most funded pensions aren’t likely to be fully funded any time soon! We are trusting to  the endeavours of future generations, whether we like to admit it or not.

As for the location of the Association, most of the employers asked to pay their subs are international if not global organisations. Most of the sponsors, on whom the PLSA will be dependent for revenues are similarly global. There is no place for parochialism in the City or in the PLSA.

So the name is moving as it should to reflect the changes in the structure of the PLSA’s current membership.

Rename or reform?

But there is a much harder issue to address. That of what I referred to earlier this week as two nation pensions. While the PLSA were meeting in Manchester, 350 leading accountants were meeting in the Birmingham NEC. 20:20 innovation help practicing accountants organise their work around relevant issues, mitigating risks and maximising their revenue opportunities. Working with 20:20 , you are never more than a click away from the best interests of their clients.

I chose to be in Birmingham and not in Manchester because I am interested in the 1.8m employers who have yet to stage auto-enrolment. 95% of them have no workplace pension  and – according to NEST’s stats earlier this year- 68% of these employers are looking to their accountants to get them up and running – and the accountant’s payroll bureau to keep them compliant.

The clear message coming from this conference (as from the breakout sessions I’ve been a part of with Payroll Software company QTAC), is that there is little or no help for accountants, payroll and their bureaux in choosing and managing staff pensions.

This was the focus of the Pension Regulator’s remarks to the Conference

Reaching out?

If the PLSA is to help these small employers, it is going to have to start talking to groups like 20:20, ICPA and the other accountancy networks that congregate at Accountex and have their own conferences. It needs to understand the needs of the customers of the large payroll software companies and their trade bodies the CIPP- their trade magazines such as Payroll World.

But it will need help. In a recent tweet, one of the PLSA’s luminaries told the world that the PLSA got there without the help of the likes of me. He is right- I had no part in the re-naming of the NAPF.

But the PLSA should be aware, that disruptive as I may be considered, mine is the only pensions name on the Payroll World 50, it was me who the CIPP invited to deliver their keynote speech at their conference early this month and it’s that is being promoted by the accounting networks to help employers understand the pensions they are entering into.


If the PLSA wants my help, I am happy to give it. But it needs to understand there will be more to reform than a change of name. There will need to be a wholesale shift in the lifestyle of the organisation , a reduction in the fees to accommodate smaller employers and the new intermediaries and an acceptance that life isn’t just about the investment of funds!

I could and should have been at the PLSA conference this week, I actually passed through the exhibition hall on Tuesday night. I hope that next year, the organisations that are making a difference on the ground helping the 1.8m new employers will have a place at the  PLSA’s table, and the PLSA will be attending the events of the accountancy and payroll organisations.

When I see that happening, I’ll believe that the disruption will have been worth it. I hope I won’t end up with my head on a spike – or deported to some distant colony.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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