2016 turned out to be a relatively uneventful year for pensions (despite all the noise). 2017 looks to have the hallmarks of disruption all over it but whatever happens to pensions will be eclipsed by the wider implications of our struggle to leave the EU and come to terms to the new transatlantic (and perhaps European) wave of populism.
We know in advance that it will be logistically the most challenging year for auto-enrolment. More employers will set up a pension in 2017 than in any year ever. It looks like that record will last as we see numbers tapering off in 2018. For me, the challenge of 2017 will be to help as many of those employers into the right workplace pension as www.pensionplaypen.com can get to. It now looks as if payroll has really got to grips with the logistics of warning small employers of their duties, but major issues around the choice and integration of workplace pension providers remain.
I intend to spend much of 2017 campaigning for a better understanding of the needs of our 6000 or so DB schemes. I want people to better understand how these schemes can be used going forward. I’m not advocating a return to DB, but I’d like to see more employers being encouraged to keep schemes open and less of the Milk and Dump tactics that we’ve seen with BHS and other recent casualties.
I want to see DC getting better and moving more towards a targeted pension approach. I’m pleased Richard Harrington has commissioned a Green Paper to look at options. I hope that one of those options is to give risk-sharing more chance, especially in the spending of our money purchase pots. At the time, I argued against Ros Altmann closing the DA project and I’d like to see the half-completed legislation, mothballed in 2015 – taken out of storage!
I want to see 2017 as a year when Pension people start closing the gap that’s emerging between us and other sectors in the application of the new technologies. I want to see us using the Blockchain to increase the accuracy and efficiency of pension administration, whether we are talking about investments or member records – or simply digitalising all the communications that go out to members
Finally I am going to spend time with my colleagues making sure that whatever the final outcome of the FCA Asset Management Market Study, First Actuarial are on the right side of the curve! I hate to see the criticism being meted out to investment consultants and asset managers but it is richly deserved. I hope that 2017 will see a marked improvement in their behaviour and better outcomes for consumers as a result.
It wouldn’t be right if I was to talk of 2017 without mentioning “restoring confidence in pensions”. I take my hat off to all the organisations that are doing their best to make pensions better understood and better respected by the general public. I hope 2017 will be a breakthrough year for public confidence in what we do.