Why I’m learning from Stephen Kelly

stephen kelly 2

Stephen Kelly ; Sage

Business mentors are important.

For some years I’ve looked at Martin Lewis as an example. I have exploited a gap in conviction based thought leadership in pensions to build this blog and help develop Pension PlayPen as a brand that is seen to “restore confidence in pensions”. I don’t think any the less of Martin for what he has done with Moneysavingexpert.com . He has done more to help ordinary people manage their day to day finances than anyone. He has shown the way for many people to follow.

But I now need to move on from talking to walking. Every week , hundreds of small businesses are taking decisions on behalf of their workers about where those workers will have their long-term savings invested. I have spent much of the past five years thinking about how small businesses will take this decision, and started http://www.pensionplaypen.com to help them make an informed choice.

But I need to understand the way that small businesses organise themselves to take those decisions and this is where Stephen Kelly’s company- Sage – has been a great help.

I’ve been able to study this company and work out how it has become so valuable to some 700.000 SMEs that use its accountancy and payroll software. It has been a revelation to see how it works with its customers. Sometimes I have been critical , but mostly I’ve been impressed. Sage is the real deal, a platform on which a large part of Britain’s work is recorded and the platform on which most people working for small businesses are paid.

Chicken Lickin

chicken licken

I had not come across Sage’s boss- Stephen Kelly – until I started reading his recent series of blogs. I wrote to him and asked if I could publish them on this blog. Those blogs that appear here, do so with his personal permission.

I admire Stephen’s style, like me – he is no fan of Chicken Lickin, a character who brought disaster by predicting disaster. Kelly takes Chicken Lickin as a characterisation of the state of funk into which some parts of Britain descended since the Brexit vote and I’ve just been listening to him admonishing business leaders and politicians for failing to show leadership and acting like the feeble Chicken.


It’s very difficult for my start up to be a business partner with Sage, we are at such different stages of our development. Stephen Kelly has achieved control of one of Britain’s great public company (with the sale of Arm to Softbank), it may become our undisputed fintech leader.

For a small business, the chance to learn from Sage has been brilliant and the opportunity to watch how one of our business leaders goes about his job, thrilling.

But I’ve also come to realise that my small business can provide Sage customers with something that even Sage cannot, a truly independent view of workplace pensions. If I were to recommend any small business to any website, it would of course be to http://www.pensionplaypen.com . It provides them with the means to understand their auto-enrolment duties and to choose a pension with precision and care.

If I was to recommend them a second place to go, I’d suggest this link , and to read the inspirational words of Sage’s CEO.


I live in the sixth year of the second decade of the twenty first century. It’s a year that has already seen great change.

2016 is the year when the great challenge of auto-enrolment ceases to be talk and starts its walk. Sage are there, helping customers with their pension module. Many other of Sage’s rivals have stepped up to the plate and we have great relationships with many of them.

So I don’t annoy my friend Carsten (who runs another payroll software concern near Sage) here he is. The chicken is a common theme these days

carsten -chicken

But right here, right now, I have no doubt that it is Stephen Kelly and his company that hold the keys to the success of auto-enrolment.

Kelly is showing the leadership that our politicians haven’t. That is why I want to be like him. Of course I never will, but in learning from Kelly , I hope http://www.pensionplaypen.com will be able to look back in 2020 and say “we did our bit”.


Stephen kelly

Stephen Kelly-Sage

About henry tapper

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