So when will Workie go robo?


Channel 4 did a Dispatches this week on the perils for employers in choosing a pension. I think I am off Dispatches’ Christmas Card list since telling them that annuities weren’t a rip-off at the back of 2013. In any event I wasn’t asked for my views, haven’t seen the program and am grateful to Husky Finance who appeared to have flown the flag for informed choice.

Regulatory pass the parcel!

On the same day the program was screened, I received a call from the FCA querying why I wished to take part in their “robo-advice”pilot. I explained that was a way to help small and micro employers choose a workplace pension and – as the decisions being taken, impacted individual people- I wanted to inform and be informed by what the FCA were up to.

The nice man from the FCA suggested I might better be having the conversation with tPR . I explained that the nice man at tPR had suggested I had the conversation with the FCA. In short, neither tPR or FCA see it as part of their regulatory remit to regulate what advice or guidance is given to small employers on how to choose a workplace pension.

Let’s not dumb down workplace pensions

The standard view of the workplace pension, is Workie, a giant cartoon character who is appearing on your screens interrupting BAU in car mechanics, hairdressers and public parks.

I like the awareness campaign, but this is not the warm up for the AE Olympics, this is the real thing. Every week some 50-100 employers choose a workplace pension using and they do not choose on fluffiness, hair colouration or ponderosity (ponderousness?).

Even at robo-prices (£199 folks), Pension PlayPen is ignored by most employers, the majority of whom are scooting off to the big master trusts without leaving any audit trail on how they came to take this retirement shaping decision for their staff.

It’s a bit like taking your maths exam and not showing your working. If you get the right answer- fine, but what if you don’t!

Employers choosing a Workie without showing their working are being dumb to themselves and exposing themselves to their current staff and future generations of staff as numpties.

So my view of workplace pensions and Workie aren’t quite congruent. I would like Workie to lead those about to stage auto-enrolment to places like Husky and Pension PlayPen so that people don’t get Workie- but the right Workie.

Pension choice is already digital- robo- it’s happening!

It is in the FCA’s and tPR’s best interests to study what is going on when employers make decision on workplace pensions. We now have anonymised data of tens of thousands of employers who have either used our workforce assessment (free) or our choose a pension service.

That data shows remarkable things about what employers value and why. It shows the time and effort that employers and their advisers take in making a decision and most importantly , it provides a big data-set on what decisions employers are actually taking.

Pension PlayPen  does not take money from insurers to be included, we cannot be accused of bribery as our research comes from an independent actuarial source- First Actuarial. Our choice process (algorithm) is independently audited and we have been subject to intense scrutiny as a result of third party due diligence.

We want tPR and the FCA to take Workie Robo and we’ll show them how. We are proud of our technology and we’re proud of the workplace pensions that sit on our platform.

People stop moaning – help is at hand.

I haven’t watched the program, but the thread on our linked in group started by the wonderful Steve Brice, suggests that the program moaned a lot about the lack of choice for employers – and means to make a choice.

I do not have a magic wand that can advertise Pension PlayPen to all 1.6m (my estimate) employers still to buy a Workie. I rely for publicity on those organisations that give a monkeys about employers getting the right workie. TPR continue to run a website which tells people choices are available but gives people no means to make that choice.

The FCA continue to run “Project Innovate”, the innovation hub, sandbox and whatever but their focus is on non-advised at retirement decision making 

If Dispatches cannot be bothered to talk to me- then I can’t be arsed to talk with them- they are supposed to be investigative journalists- i am not spending money (and putting prices up) to hire a PR team.

If the FCA cannot find a way to incorporate workplace pension decision making into Project Innovate, then I don’t think they are being innovatory at all!

And if tPR can’t take Workie-Robo, what chance the millions of employers they are supposed to be helping, making informed decisions?

Workie will go robo!

But in case anyone is in any doubt, Workie will go robo, it may not be thanks to Government , it certainly won’t be thanks to the investigative journalists of the Dispatches team, but it will be thanks to the vision of some very important people in payroll and accountancy.

Because there is no stopping auto-enrolment, nor auto-decision making on workplace pensions. Because – in the end – people will see sense and the right thing will happen.

Watch this blog – Workie will go robo very soon indeed.

taps on pension playpen


About henry tapper

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