A tale of two cultures (and why I’m backing payroll)


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Two days, two conferences and two vastly different experiences.

On Wednesday I spent a day exploring the Future of Life and Pensions with what Market Force and people  I am told are financial services “C1s”. Apparently this means they’ve reached the top (and presumably had to stop) of their financial trees – these are the movers and shakers of the fund industry. Someone started their speech to them

 “If you’re not the future- who is?”.

That question would have been a lot easier to answer if the questioner had made his way to the Learn Centre’s 2016 Payroll Conference where I spent Thursday (and a good part of Wednesday evening).

Those sessions I attended focussed on making payroll better able to meet the complex demands of the HMRC, employers and employees (to name but three stakeholders). The people in this conference probably earned on average 30% of the C1s but they were absolutely on the ball.

If you’d like to see what the payroll people and I were talking about, here are the slides

In the name of God- go!

My theme to payroll was that they were undervalued , overworked and deserved on average 20% more in their pay packets.

If I had spoken the C1s I would have started with Oliver Cromwell’s exhortation to parliament.

You sat too long for any good you have been doing lately…Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of Gog- go!

When two world’s divide

The market force conference did not just contain the no-hopers Cromwell identified, it contained good people from NEST, People’s Pension and other forward looking enterprises who could have cut a merry caper with our friends at payroll.

But – in the generality – payroll is of another caste. The market force lot have yet to understand that it is payroll which is administering their workplace pensions , payroll who run risk benefits, implement and administer flex and keep members informed about what is going on in the schemes they are in.

Not just that, it is to payroll, not the advisers and certainly not the pension providers- that ordinary people turn when they need help with pensions.

For all the talk of robo-advice, day to day advice on what to do about saving is delivered by payroll officers and the decisions taken by SMEs and micros on which pension to use for auto-enrolment is decided if not by , certainly with the influence of -payroll.

I did not hear one mention of payroll by any speaker at Marketforce

When two world’s collide

The DWP – represented by its pensions minister at Market Force, recognise payroll. Payroll representatives go to the DWP roundtables, tPR now talk as much with payroll as providers (and a lot more than with actuarial consultants)!

The payroll people at the Learn Centre conference were only too eager to learn about pensions. Payroll sees the opportunity to be pension managers in years to come and are keen to help make auto-enrolment be a success. They want to help ordinary people understand  pensions and they ask the questions that ordinary people want to know.

The Financial Advice Market Review should be aware that the mass market currently talks to payroll and not robots and though payroll use robots like http://www.pensionplaypen.com to understand pensions, they talk a language to staff that staff understand.

The future is with payroll

The desiderata of the Market force conference were all about engagement. But I see little engagement by the C1s with the new way that pensions are working on the ground. I saw massive engagement with ordinary people’s issues at the Learn Centre’s Payroll Conference.

I suggest going forward, that those who sit for two days and go out in the evening to Michelin Starred restaurants (thanks but no thanks), think about this. But I don’t suppose they will.

Depart I say and let us have done with you – the Future of Pensions is with payroll.


About henry tapper

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