The trees are great – but the wood’s the thing!



This week has seen ,present at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries pension conference on “mapping the Pension Genome”, our Pension PlayPen lunch on “defaults to spend our DC saving”, Reward Strategy conference on “Royal Mail’s journey to CDC” , Learn conference with the Pensions Regulator on “Auto-enrolment developments” and today I will be talking at the Money Market Retirement Forum about the Problems at Port Talbot.

In between I’ve been learning about the FCA’s innovation hub and attending the CSFI’s Fintech breakfast.

What I find so odd- exciting- challenging – is that each of the sessions I attended or spoke at, had an exclusive audience to every other session. Payroll people don’t talk to actuaries, there are no IFAs at Fintech events and as for CDC!!! My personal ambition to map the Pension Genome is probably a Fintech venture but there is little congruity with AE or CDC. Indeed, trying to make sense of my week is like walking through a dark wood, bumping into trees.

When you are in the wood , you can feel claustrophobic, bewildered, lost. But as soon as you step out, you can see the magnificence of the arboreal canopy and be amazed by the complexity of so many kinds of trees merging into one entity.

Which is what weekends have become for me! A chance to get on my boat with people I know and those who I don’t! This weekend’s crews include some IFAs , the lock keeper at Cookham, a group I know nothing of and some old college friends from Cambridge.

For them pensions are a wood, they need see no trees.

Throughout the week I have been kept informed of other people’s endeavours

  • Sara Protheroe’s brave meeting with Work and Pensions Select and Frank Field
  • Share Action’s work on auto-enrolment providers (due to be published tomorrow)
  • Scottish Widows’ research on pensions and tax (see also Kate Upcraft’s blog today)
  • NMA’s epic work on SJP’s pricing model
  • Chris Sier’s preparations for the IDWG’s big reveal on June 14th

This is what being a Pension Plowman is about. Sitting on a hill above Malvern , staring across the Vale of Evesham as if in a dream, seeing a vast field of folk. If you don’t know the reference , it’s all here.

IN a summer season · when soft was the sun,
I clothed myself in a cloak as I shepherd were,
Habit like a hermit’s · unholy in works,
And went wide in the world · wonders to hear.
But on a May morning · on Malvern hills,
A marvel befell me · of fairy, methought.
I was weary with wandering · and went me to rest
Under a broad bank · by a brook’s side,
And as I lay and leaned over · and looked into the waters
I fell into a sleep · for it sounded so merry.

Then began I to dream · a marvellous dream,
That I was in a wilderness · wist I not where.
As I looked to the east · right into the sun,
I saw a tower on a toft · worthily built;
A deep dale beneath · a dungeon therein,
With deep ditches and dark · and dreadful of sight
A fair field full of folk · found I in between,
Of all manner of men · the rich and the poor,
Working and wandering · as the world asketh.
Some put them to plow · and played little enough,
At setting and sowing · they sweated right hard
And won that which wasters · by gluttony destroy.

Some put them to pride · and apparelled themselves so
In a display of clothing · they came disguised.
To prayer and penance · put themselves many,
All for love of our Lord · living hard lives,
In hope for to have · heavenly bliss.
Such as anchorites and hermits · that kept them in their cells,
And desired not the country · around to roam;
Nor with luxurious living · their body to please.

And some chose trade · they fared the better,
As it seemeth to our sight · that such men thrive.

That was William Langland (or Piers Plowman) in the 15th century. But it could be me now.

I hope you thrive – as some who chose trade!




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to The trees are great – but the wood’s the thing!

  1. John Mather says:

    Dear Henry
    Delighted that you have found fintech exciting, however you might find the Said Business School 10 week course a better way to immerse yourself in the subject. You might consider the impact of the introduction of the Quantum computer, particularly the one made available by IBM or how 5G is to change the IOT and the Genomic sequencing impact on underwriting

    If you require further assistance please do not hesitate to email or if you prefer speaking to the course provider, please call on:

    UK: +44 20 3670 1791
    US: +1 617 861 4750
    Global: +27 21 830 9200

    I found the course fascinating well run, global and multidisciplinary The absence of an actuary does not indicate a lack of interest from that sector

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