Who’s fooling whom – on workplace pensions


“We all have one- we all know who chose it, but none of us know why?”

In the 19th century, when riddles were popular, this would have been counted an interesting question. Riddling could make a comeback on social media as it challenges with brevity – like one of those lippy tattoos!

I’m prepping for an away day with the DWP later in the month when I’ll be going head to toe with Tom McPhail on whether it is the employer or the employee who should be choosing the workplace pension.

Tom and my thinking is coming together, I am changing my mind and beginning to think the task of getting most of the 1m + employers, participating in workplace pensions – beyond them or us. Frankly, if you are Flo the Florist, are you really wanting to know whether the pension’s any good?

The answer is of course “yes” , especially if the staff Flo chooses for her florists is the pension that will support her in retirement.  But “nudge central” (aka Napier House) has deemed that getting to know your workplace pension comes down to the knew master trust rules and a bit of “hit and hope” from their friends at Canary Wharf.

This is of course an exaggeration, but there is not much help for employers for what pension people like to call “due diligence”.

My efforts to create a rating system for employers using http://www.pensionplaypen.com has been a limited success, but it has not become a mass- market tool. Sage couldn’t make it work (in retrospect I should have given them a licence). The sad truth is that no matter how easy you make it, small employers want a default workplace pension and have made NEST that default.

Life could be a lot worse than having NEST as the default workplace pension,  because NEST is one of the best workplace pensions. But the strain on NEST of not spreading the load, will become apparent over time.

I am now thinking that it is the staff who will want to get to know their workplace pension, especially when they wake up to the fact that this money is

  1. going to be their biggest liquid asset
  2. that not all workplace pensions are the same.

In answer to my question, I think we’re all fooling each other that workplace pensions are all the same and that they won’t matter to ordinary people. Which begs some interesting questions for the future.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Who’s fooling whom – on workplace pensions

  1. Simon Apperley says:

    My wife runs a small business and has no time or skill to evaluate a workplace pension. She has one employee, who is young and starting her career. My view is that there is a significant need to ignite some interest in pension saving among employees – with all the forecasts of moving jobs etc. with the DB to DC switch the risk is already on the employee, so I would say for small businesses, if the employees were given a pack to decide which pension saving scheme they wanted, they would be best placed to make the decision. Though that only works for small firms

    • alan chaplin says:

      don’t see why it only works for small firms. large firms have welcome packs/induction days and could easily add in a page on pensions along the lines of if you do nothing, we’ll do x but if you want a different provider, choose from a, b, c…

  2. henry tapper says:

    Apologies for the misspelling in the title! Norma Cohen et al!

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