Going, going, gone – from public policy.
At one point in 2015, we had a female pensions minister, MAS was run by a woman, tPR was about to be run by a woman, the FCA, PLSA and NEST were run by women and TPAS was run by a woman.
In three short years almost all these positions have reverted to the male hegemony. This worries me. The rise of women in pensions , spurred on by brilliant influencers like Jo Cumbo, meant that pensions were and still governed with emotional as well as intellectual intelligence.
Caroline Rookes has left MAS
Joanne Segars has left PLSA
Tracey McDermott has left the FCA
Lesley Titcomb is leaving tPR
With the exception of tPR (where we are yet to hear of the new CEO), all have been replaced by men. Now we read on the DWP’s website that John Govett is to be the first CEO of the single guidance body, reporting to Hector Saints. Effectively this is a shut-out for Michelle Cracknell who openly put herself forward for the position.
Looking through John Govett’s CV , I can see he is an advocate of financial education, but I can see nothing in it that suggests he knows about pensions. In not appointing Cracknell, Esther McVey has lost a good woman and a pension expert.
Helen Dean remains CEO of NEST, Charlotte Clark heads pension policy at DWP, but it seems that the tide has turned against women in pensions- and for no good reason.
While this very much a matter of speculation, the acting CEO of MAS – Charles Counsell – in now a free agent. There are many in Brighton who would have him back at the Pensions Regulator. The reassertion of the male hegemony may have legs in it!
The Single Guidance Body must provide pension resource
Before TPAS was nationalised in 2006, it was a charity. It provided a service to people who needed help with pensions. Now – 12 years on – it is a thriving quango, based in an unfashionable block in Pimlico and run by Michelle Cracknell. It has 90 full time staff and an army of volunteers. It is Britain’s pensions brains trust, an independent centre of excellence where people go to get their problems sorted,
It is only too easy to see TPAS absorbed, diluted and eventually dispensed with, especially in a Single Guidance Body that does not manufacture but rely on outsourced service providers to do the heavy lifting.
I question whether, without Cracknell, TPAS would retain its current independence, whether it would remain a centre of excellence and whether the many people who choose to work for it – will continue to do so.
It is time that pensions people lobbied to preserve TPAS as an unsung national treasure (something this blog has been doing for several years).
And what to do with our great women?
Caroline Rookes is doing jobbing work for tPR, Segars is doing great work for LGPS, McDermott is back in banking but what are the long term prospects for women coming up behind?
The loss of Cracknell as CEO of TPAS (a position I am not sure will exist under the Single Guidance Body) would be grievous – as will be the loss of Titcomb.
What are we doing with this talent?
And what are we doing to promote the next wave of female talent – women like Megan Butler at the FCA? How can we excite them with the prospect of public service, when we are doing such a bad job of nurturing the talent we have?
I am seriously concerned that we will look back at the last five years with regret. Our golden generation of women – of a certain age – who have forged a platform for further generations of women, with a new kind of intelligence – are deposed in favour of men who are -let’s face it – reaching the ends of their working lives.
The careers of Hector Sants (SGB), Andrew Bailey(FCA), John Govett (SGB), Julian Mund (PLSA) are based in banking, funds and employment services. Not only are they PMS but they know little to nothing about pensions.
TPAS must not be lost
While we can moan the waxing of Venus, we must do more about the imminent threat to TPAS.
TPAS must not be lost.
It may have what Cracknell once called a “third world office” but that office in Pimlico is uber-productive; massively under-resourced, it has been all too often ignored (think BSPS). But it remains our source of strength – Britain’s Pension Brains Trust.
TPAS must not be lost.
We must find a way to keep this national treasure intact.