I’m writing at 6am, soon I will be getting on a train to Manchester which will be full of people going to the PLSA Conference. I won’t be going to that Conference, instead I will be visiting Sage’s accountant support office in Salford and helping First Actuarial with its work with small businesses in the north west.
I first went to a PLSA conference in 1995 and they became for me a business highlight for decades. But three things now stand in my way.
- The cost of going has soared, add hotel and travel to the Conference rate and I have difficulty justifying to myself the value of the networking (the sessions are live-streamed for non conference goers
- The block of time the Conference books from your diary means it is hard to get on with other things. Most of the other things I do, do not involve the things the PLSA talks about.
- The agenda the PLSA is pursuing is quite opposite to the business agenda of my employer. We are believers in small being beautiful, open being good and we have a very old fashioned view that we provide pensions for people who can’t or don’t want to do it for themselves.
While I have been writing, I have been corresponding with Derek Scott, my Perthshire buddy who chairs the trustees of one of the great PLSA schemes. He was bemoaning my not going and I’m afraid I had to tell him it was unlikely I would be a member of the PLSA for much longer (unless 1-3 above, changed).
We are exchanging views on the merits of supporting St Johnstone (one win in six) and Yeovil Town (one win in six).
Which I guess is code for sticking up for the smaller scheme. I watched Yeovil lose 2-1 to Cambridge last night – I was tempted to stream Real Madrid and Tottenham on my BT sport app (but didn’t).
There’s really no need for smaller football clubs you know. Only 95 Yeovil fans made it to the Abbey Stadium, hardly a reason to have lower league football (in economic terms).
But if you take the Yeovils and St Johnstones out of football, you cut out the feeding grounds for the Southamptons and the Aberdeens and that means that the foundations of the Premier League get a little shaky.
The occupational pensions world is about the glamour clubs (the schemes of the retail banks, the utilities, local authorities and the corporate giants. They have the budgets and the intent to spend to keep the PLSA Conference afloat for years to come. But if you cut out the smaller schemes then there is no one learning how best practice works and a Conference becomes an echo chamber for those who already know how to do it.
In all seriousness, the fabric of our occupational pension industry, which the PLSA and the NAPF before it, has represented for some 60 years, is being undermined by its own trade body. The Gupta report, though it makes great sense to a management consultant, makes no sense to me at all.
I am a Yeovil fan, a fan of lower league clubs who dream of being big one day. I don’t want to be part of some premier league set up where the integrity of my support is sold to BT or SKY sport. You won’t find Aon near Yeovil, unless Man Utd. come visiting as they did two years ago. But if Aon knew the pride I had in getting a Ferrero Rocha from Pat Custard at half-time, perhaps they’d understand.