How pensions look from outer space

outer space 2

I’ve been thinking with a few friends about what can best be described as the “pensions market”.

If you were to look down at Britain from Richard Branson’s spaceship, you would see people working towards a single aim in a great number of ways. If you far enough away from the nitty-gritty, you might characterise that aim as

“helping people retire when they want on what they want”.

Such trite phrases were what I spouted when I started out, because retirement when you are 21 is such an abstract notion that only big picture stuff works.

Getting on for 40 years on

I now have experience as an IFA, as a benefits consultant, corporate sales person, investment platform salesperson and latterly an actuarial salesperson. I have been around and seen a few things.

But I still keep a little candle burning for the big picture stuff. So I wouldn’t mind going up in the rocket and describing planet pensions.

We only see the bit we’re in

A couple of weeks back – I spent some time after work with a little group of people who manage large pension funds , some people in communications and a conference organiser looking to make pension conferences more relevant.

It soon became apparent that there were two types of people in the room, those who managed pensions for companies and those who were involved in explaining pensions to the people who would get them. I put myself a foot in either camp and we quickly got on with explaining each other’s positions. The CIOs in the room and those looking after individuals were a world apart in what they thought important to them to do their job, but once we started focussing on the consumer – we became excited.

There was more that joined us than divided us.

We came up with a plan

Our plan was very simple (as good plans are). We would run a conference that focussed on the consumer and got everyone thinking about delivering better outcomes, explaining how what they did benefited people’s retirement income.

This is so simple it is often ignored.

From the spaceship – what the CIO of a multi-billion pound pension fund and what the IFA advising a member on retirement options are doing – is exactly the same thing.

Working out that everyone is batting on the same side, begs the question – what’s the opposition?

We all know what we’re up against – apathy, uncertainty, distrust, disillusionment, incomprehension and laziness.

In the spirit of co-operation, I think a pension conference that had as its sole focus, what brings us all together, would be much more interesting than the usual rather random fayre dished up to us.

This is particularly the case when it comes to thinking of DC pensions, where there is no third man or fine leg to field the ball if the wicket keeper misses it! Here risk management is undertaken entirely by the consumer so focussing on giving the users of DC some help in managing their wage in retirement, could be a great theme for an event.

This simple plan focusses on how we work together to a common aim

After we’d had our discussion , we broke to have something to eat and we carried on talking, thinking of how we could deliver such a simple and obvious idea,

As we talked, I realised we were finding ways of working together that quite broke down the traditional silos of buyers and sellers.

This may sound trite, but going back to the things I used to say to prospective clients when I was in my 20’s – became relevant again.

“helping people retire when they want on what they want” is what the CIO of the multi million pound scheme and the IFA have in common. From the spaceship, they are doing exactly the same thing.

outer space


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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