Can pensions be more playful (please)!

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three of our actuaries at play


I’ve waded through a number of IGC chair reports this Easter weekend and a smile has seldom  been on my lips. With the exception of the Virgin Money report, I hardly felt I knew who I was talking to. Ironically, while I know most of the IGC chairs, I don’t know Virgin’s. The capacity of an individual chair to engage a reader is often down to very simple things. Virgin’s IGC report opens with a simple message.


It needs to be said! Virgin’s is one of the few reports that can be found by simple navigation from its website (just press the workplace pension tab on the homepage).

As a consultant, I will be encouraging our clients (employers) to read their IGC reports, though with some reservation! I will be encouraging employers to publicise the reports to staff (with similar reservations).

I will be encouraging these people to contact their IGCs and tell them what they think of their workplace pensions and the work of the IGCs themselves. Otherwise these boards will become as distant as the remuneration and audit committees of the companies in which we invest.

But there is little interactivity in these reports. I have read a lot of statements but hardly any questions. A general request for feedback is generally found at the back of the report, but I have yet to see a report that has so much as a poll in which the reader can participate.

I cannot remember seeing any digital publicity for any of the IGC reports. Other than my reports, facebook, twitter and Linked in have been IGC free.

Retirement sets you free, a pension helps you enjoy that freedom,  messaging on pensions (even when playful) sings a joyful tune!

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The feedback that the IGCs say they want might be gathered from any number of social media sources. Instead of trying these out, the IGCs have resolutely stuck with paid for market research from the tried and tested market research sources.

Please be more playful.

I listened on the radio this morning to a discussion on naming. I know many people who name their cars but I’ve never heard a pension have a name (other than something really boring). I will hereafter call my workplace pension with L&G “George” for no good reason than I can. I will insist that since it is a personal pension, others refer to it as George as well. L&G can continue to call their workplace pension “the Legal and General worksave pension” but my one will be called George.

I’d like to see the IGCs be prepared to stand up to their providers and be provocative. I hear plenty of talk of being challenging but precious little of these reports disrupts the insurer’s business as usual. Legal and General’s workplace pension report of 2016 remains the one report which lost it with its provider and very entertaining Paul Trickett’s rants were. I don’t expect all reports to be that assertive, but there are opportunities to chide tardy insurers in a playful way, and to call the provider names!

Playful but not flippant

There are ways of engaging an audience through play (we try to do it at the Pension PlayPen). I see the banner at the top of this blog as just such a way. But the intent of play can and should be serious.

Gaming is integral to product marketing, it always has been, but today’s digital world makes for so many more opportunities.

Unfortunately, the IGCs have taken to heart the Government’s instruction to talk to its customers but once a year. Many use this opportunity to list the various activities the IGC has got up to in the past twelve months.

How much more interesting had these activities been announced as they happened, with opportunities given for people to feedback through games. Whether by email,Facebook or twitter , linked in, Instagram, youtube , or Snapchat.  IGCs could engage in simple games with ordinary people asking them to choose on a “what’s best”, “what’s worst”, “what do you think” basis.  “Likes, dislikes and comments” are at the heart of the social media game, but it’s currently a game the IGCs refuse to play.

Never too late to get started

The kind of day to day questions which IGCs (and trustees) should be asking , have a wide audience. There are plenty of social media consultants only too keen to show IGCs how its done and to get things going.

Engaging with an audience in this playful way, doesn’t happen over night. It has taken me 60,000 tweets and 7 years to get 7,000 followers. But the IGCs have the power of their provider’s brands behind them so presences on social media are already in place.

The 2017 IGC reports ask more questions than they give answers to and I’d be happy to help any IGC to frame 20 questions that they could play to us over the next twelve months.

And IGC research shows engagement is key!

If we want to see higher per capita savings levels, if we want to see appropriate fund selection and if we want people to use freedom in their best interests, we need to get them engaged. The IGCs have a part to play, a part which they are simply not playing with their current round of reports (most of which will get a handful of reads).

The IGCs must go beyond their terms of reference to make themselves relevant, the TOR in themselves will not put them into play. To be “in play” , the IGCs need to be “playful”.

I will be making these points to our Pensions Minister who has, I am happy to say, a decent sense of humour!

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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in IGC, pension playpen, pensions, Personality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Can pensions be more playful (please)!

  1. John Mather says:

    Henry hope had my note on life time allowance we did not vote any party in to tax at a marginal rate over 75% those prudent savers If he won’t back down then apply the penal tax rate to all individuals over the £50,000 level (not the funds)

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