Who moved my cliche? The sorry state of the “employee benefits market”



I was suffeciently underwhelmed by the “vibrant employee benefits live exhibition” last week to stay just 20 minutes. Bearing in mind the Boris Bike ride from the City to Kensington Olympia, this represented a poor return on my time. I normally find something or someone of value but this year – zip!

The title of the piece came to me as I cycled back (ironically to speak at a Transparency Symposium). “Employee benefits” is as corporatist as this hideous booklet you were forced to read “who moved my cheese?”. The gobbledegook I heard suggested the democratisation of management-consultancy speak. Now – it appears – a whole new generation has learned to speak corporate.

I am so not aligned to the wellness agenda. I am so unimpressed by “free” platforms that sell me nothing but expensive products I and my staff neither need nor can afford. The tat generally on sale at this show diverts corporate budgets from paying for key benefits that protect families from death or sickness and provide proper pensions to those who survive a lifetime in the workplace.


Such simple products were little in evidence. NEST were there (apparently) but I didn’t see them and everybody I did see was selling me trash.

My conclusion was that as well as being sucked into the dire world of corporate speak, most of those people who used to be corporate pension experts are now “platform experts” with new found expertise in “reward”, “compensation” and worst of all “wellness”.


Is it any wonder that DC contribution rates remain so low? It seems that the responsible behaviour that consultants used to encourage – behaviour that resulted in proper pension schemes bringing real benefits – has been replaced by a gala of “red letter days”, “aromatherapy in the workplace” and such tat.

It’s not just the lack of focus, it’s the wasteful extravagance of an exhibition which is so aimless. As far as I could make out, you paid to speak unless you were a buyer in which you spent most of your time sitting in the speakers lounge comparing notes with other buyers about job opportunities.

I feel very tempted to turn the gun turrets on the reward and compensation brigade – who themselves are typically refugees from the DB Aleppo.I’m tempted to tie up one of the snake-oil salesmen who speak at these things and  deliver a more direct message.


You’re playing what management consultants used to call a “zero-sum game”. Messing around with spreadsheets designed to tell you how much more productive you are making everyone, you are the least productive part of your organisation’s operation.

You should get out of this place now and go back to work, you should find a useful occupation for yourself which helps your workforce to work harder and happier. You should stop messing about buying the tat on sale here but start talking with your staff about what they need, want and haven’t got.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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5 Responses to Who moved my cliche? The sorry state of the “employee benefits market”

  1. Brian Gannon says:

    agreed. focus on pensions death in service income protection and paying people a decent living wage.

  2. henry tapper says:

    The last one even more important – thanks for including that Brian!

  3. Alan chaplin says:

    Sounds rather bereft of ideas to counter the likely increase in cost for many options given the salary sacrifice consultation.

  4. Nicola Cull says:

    Thankfully you didn’t visit us at EB Live (I have checked the spreadsheets!). Our focus is simple, we want to help employees make the most of their offer, whether its pensions or something else. Next time (if we do it) please come and see us if you can.

  5. henry tapper says:

    I am sure from that nice post that visiting you would be good news, Do you want to give yourself a plug Nicola?

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