Diversity – (my part in “his” downfall)!

Sage Summit

If “lack of diversity” is the problem, I’m part of it!

Like the eight panellists at the pension sessions of Sage Summit I was male, pale, grey and stale! Apologies (to our regulators Charles Counsell and Neil Esslemont, to Standard Life’s Graham Bell, Aviva’s Malcolm Goodwin , Smart’s Will Wynn, People’s Kevin Hart , Now’s Rob Booth and Nest’s Paul Budgen) but we fail on all counts – no youth, ethnic diversity or gender balance!

This appalling state of affairs was not of Sage’s making. They had asked for spokespeople and they got spokesmen. The pension industry is constantly trying to reinvent itself as something different from days gone by, with people from days gone by!

Life is different outside of pensions

Sage’s two keynote speeches on its opening morning were from Deborah Meesden and Martha Lane Fox.

The session before ours was a debate on diversity and how to improve it.

Despite pensions having a large number of prominent women CEOs (Cracknell, Dean, Titcomb, Altmann and Rookes), our public face continues to be framed by a suit and tie.

I joked that you could tell we were in pensions because we looked uncomfortable, but that was a little close to the mark and it wasn’t till a flurry of tweets, sparked by someone in the audience pointing out what a bunch of old farts we looked!


So where is the diversity? Well the answer was staring us in the face. The room was packed with young, ethnic and gender diverse delegates!

The democratisation of  pensions resulting from auto-enrolment means that “we are all in”! We need to find new ways to connect with our 1m + new employer customers and new ways to engage with the 10m new employees who will be saving into workplace pensions.

I don’t think the line ups of these sessions will change overnight. Our spokespeople are currently what they are (including me!). But we need to find new faces and new voices that can tell the story with credibility for a more diverse audience.

Should I have chaired?

Well – unusually I was the only person at the session without a chair!

I was asked to chair because Pension PlayPen acts as the point of advice for Sage’s 500,000+ employers looking to choose a workplace pension- and I guess Sage saw me as the natural choice.

While I didn’t choose the panel, I didn’t insist on diversity. There were calls on twitter last night for me to have stood down in protest.


I do quite a lot of chairing, I like it and I think I’m good at it. But Debora is right, I am part of the problem so long as I don’t demand diversity.

So from now on, I’m going to try harder and – where we have the right to appoint – make sure that I do not chair male only panels. That Debora is a promise!

Challenge my chairing!

I would be very open, if my future chairing is publicised, to stand down if my chairing is challenged . I cannot insist on the challenger being chair , but if a more diverse candidate than me can be found, I will promote that candidate.

I cannot see any point in talking about the need for change, there is a need for succession if change is going to happen!

Participate please!

On Monday we had a great pension playpen lunch, great that is – other than it had 23 men and one woman in the Counting House!

There is a real need for wider participation in the pensions debate and we need a new kind of thought leader who doesn’t conform to our pattern. We need female intelligence – and we need the different experience that comes from diverse ethnic, religious and generational backgrounds.

We stop talking to the echo chamber when we stop talking! The echo chamber ceases to be , when new people step up and take over.

So if you’d like to chair a pension playpen lunch and you’re not male, pale, grey and stale, drop me a line on henry.tapper@pensionplaypen.com or drop a comment below.

I know that this sounds patronising, but that’s me – a pater (father). I have never heard of anyone accused of being matronising!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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9 Responses to Diversity – (my part in “his” downfall)!

  1. Thanks for responding so positively to this Henry – it is much appreciated. I’ve been researching gender in pension accumulation and pension outcomes for more than 15 years and there remains broad consensus (and in my view little doubt) that pension design and income in later life from pensions continues to reflect men’s and not women’s lives. So I think these issues of diversity have real impact and are incredibly important.

    I think this issue of public presence and representation in pensions and at pensions events, when you start to examine it, is striking. A few weeks ago I conducted a totally unscientific study by looking at the speakers and panels for pension events that I had attended in the last few years, where I had that info fairly readily to hand. At most a single woman here and there, on occasions it was me. But more than that, I noticed something that I think is important – where women were speaking, they were often ‘outsiders’ to the main game, by which I mean commentators, officials, regulators, politicians, researchers, academics etc., which I think serves to reinforce the idea that women are not the main players, where it “counts” – in the board rooms, in executive positions, making a real difference.

    If anyone thinks there are no women in pensions to invite to speak and onto panels, they are wrong. I started rather idly to put together a list of #womeninpensions, in no particular order – and apologies to those who are not on it – I realise it’s somewhat random, but perhaps people can add to it, and I’ll add to it myself over time.

    Women in Pensions

    Stella Eastwood – Head of Pensions, Lloyds Banking Group: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stella-eastwood-272a151

    Jenny Davidson – Head of Reward, Virgin Atlantic: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-davidson-2840316

    Elizabeth Renshaw-Ames – CEO HSBC Pensions Trust: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-renshaw-ames-a7b95112/

    Wendy Davis – Pensions Manager Sainsburys: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-davis-4a5a956b/

    Carol Young – Head of Group Pensions RBS: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carol-young-3192aa43

    Sally Bridgeland – Independent Actuary: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sally-bridgeland-fia-a6b3399

    Sue Applegarth – CEO Saul Trustee Company: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sue-applegarth-0b07b912

    Jackie Leiper – Director of Employer Relationships at Scottish widows: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jackielindsay/

    Kate Smith, Head of Pensions at Aegon: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-smith-9794ab19/

    Gillian Cardy, Insight consultant (wealth) at DeFaqto: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gilliancardy/

    Fiona Tait, Business Development Manager, Royal London: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fiona-tait-10436527/

    Karen Wake, Senior Pensions Strategy Manager, Lloyd’s Bank: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-wake-549a885/

    Laura MacPhee, Pensions Strategy and Insight Analyst at USS: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-macphee-02347414/

    Rachel Vahey, Product Technical Manager at Nucleus Financial: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-vahey-90154915/

    Claire Trott, Head of Pension Strategy at Technical Connection Ltd: https://www.linkedin.com/in/claireltrott/

    Isobel Langton, CEO Intermediary Division at Royal London: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isobel-langton-78a6a3b5/

    Fiona Morrison, actuary, partner at Lane Clark Peacock, was president of the institute and faculty of actuaries: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fiona-morrison-31b16635/

    Emma Watkins – Director, Bulk Annuities Division at Scottish Widows: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmajwatkins/

    Emma Douglas – Head of DC Solutions at Legal & General: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-douglas-07ba32b/

    Colette Dunn – Head of Strategy at Milliman: https://www.linkedin.com/in/colette-dunn-8915576b/

    Yvonne Braun – ABI Director of Long Term Savings: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yvonne-braun-92368919/

    Michelle Cracknell – Chief Executive, The Pensions Advisory Service: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-cracknell-33a11a5/

    Maggie Craig, Special Adviser to FCA: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maggie-craig-270940b/

  2. Rachel Meadows – Head of Pensions CS Financial Solutions: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-meadows-5a368a78/

  3. henry tapper says:

    Thanks for these posts Debbie (apologies for the accident of needing moderation – (wordpress?!*!)

    Living with Stella makes me aware of how constrained my male paradigm is! Often I completely miss a point which is obvious to someone with a different (let’s say) female sensibility.

    I can only imagine how frustrating it may be to sit in an audience and hear the same views again and again, when your views are neither represented or listened to.

    I will be criticised by both men and women for saying this, but the current male domination of pension debates must change immediately.

  4. Peter Ellis says:

    It is good that the need and reason for diversity is recognised, however those who represent the diverse groups need to ‘step up’ rather than blame the ‘old white blokes’ when the don’t hear what they want!

  5. Garry Carter says:

    Poor Henry. So it wasn’t of Sage’s doing, nor yours. So who did invite the panelists? I think we need more information before we have you excommunicated.

  6. henry tapper says:

    No need to feel sorry for Henry Garry. Each provider put forward a man and the Regulator put forward two men. Sage put me forward which meant that we had 10 men and no women. I think I need to be de gendered rather than excommunicated.

  7. Anna Tilba says:

    Well said Henry! It may be just my impression but there seems to be more women in SRI and. Stewardship pensions gatherings. Count me in for pensions lunch next time.

  8. Lynda Whitney says:

    Defined Contributions is an area of pensions I often find a higher proportion of women than say DB actuarial or investment. Some of my DC colleagues I would happily volunteer from Aon include:

    Sophia Singleton – Head of DC Advisory

    Debbie Falvey – DC Proposition Lead

    Sophie Moore – DC Investment Consultant

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