Who’s at the heart of pensions – you or your boss?


Vincent Franklin

A group of like-minded souls met at Quietroom’s Farringdon offices to agree a way of mapping DC pensions (the ones you pay a fixed amount into and build up a capital sum).

We could quite easily have extended the task to include other pensions but we didn’t.

The room divided into two groups with quite extraordinary results.

The group I was in put people at the centre of the map and built out to employers , insurers, SIPP providers, financial advisers and the trustees of pension schemes. We looked at DC from the situations we found ourselves in – some of us were drawing money down, some self-employed and some a bit of everything.

The other group saw pensions from the perspective of the supply chain and put the employer at the centre of the map. They were able to articulate very well how pensions were purchased on behalf of people and their creation articulated how the pensions industry sees stakeholders.

Organising the map

Quietroom quite brilliantly helped us map the various players with skin in the game

The sponsors, employers, the tax-man and of course us!

The fiduciaries, trustees, IGCs and those within insurers and SIPPs charged with treating customers fairly.

The regulators, the FCA, the Pensions Regulator and the various Government departments charged with creating order, FOS, PSO, FSCS, POS, Pensions and Money Service +DWP/Treasury

The service providers, here the list was endless, advisers, fund managers, administrators, platform managers, data integrators  etc etc.

“Organising the map” is intentionally a pun. The intention was to map all the players we knew onto one pay so everyone could see themselves and their connectivity to others. But in this mapping process we organised the map we intend to share with others, through the service of DG publishing who were sponsoring the event.

Different views

The brilliance of the Mercator projection is that it brings two views into a single view.


What Mercator did was to imagine what it would look like if you could take a panorama shot on your phone as you circumnavigated the globe. But to do this, he had to imagine himself out of this world, looking down on continents while circumnavigating – an astral Magellan.

We now accept this view of the world.

What DG publishing are sponsoring and Quietroom is creating is a view of the world that sees everything from one perspective. They need to be the astral Magellan and get the bigger picture. It takes considerable leadership to bring different views together but it has to be done.

A single perspective

I hold firm to the view of those in the room who see the perspective on DC pensions as that of the super- consumer, the astral Magellan who can see all ways that a person can interact with DC pensions and can articulate, cartographically, to all the people he or she is employing, how they relate to him/her. It is this focus on serving individual people that is key to the success of understanding the whole.

So the map can speak for

  1. the self-employed person and his options
  2. the member of the NHS pension scheme struggling with HMRC
  3. the Legal & General policyholder trying to understand retirement options
  4. the postman awaiting joining the Royal Mail CDC plan
  5. the employee auto-enrolled into NEST
  6. the retiree drawing from her SIPP

….all from a single perspective. Just as Chinese, Africans, American and Europeans can see themselves on Mercator’s map.

Intermediate touch points for service providers

If you are trying to understand your strategic options as a service provider, then understanding the DC map is helpful. You can work out where you have interactions and where you don’t, you can assess new markets and reassess your existing positions.

You can understand how you are seen (or not seen) by the people you serve and in so doing you can understand to what extent you are adding value or simply incurring cost (the value for money equation).

I think many of us within the room were shocked when we saw just how many organisations had a finger in the DC pie and how complex and duplicatory much of what we mapped appeared.

Of course the buzz word is consolidation but for many people , their pensions are oceans apart. To spend the pot I build up in NEST , I have to travel to a drawdown provider who seems on another continent. My USS pension has to be considered together with my contracted out personal pension when calculating my lifetime allowance.

For service providers, it may seem easier to stick with relationships that do not have to grapple with this complexity. It is easy enough to say that there is a pension consultant, an EBC, an IFA to do that for you.

It is far simpler for service providers to use intermediaries as touch points. Which is why very few people in the room saw people as their customers.

Intermediaries with global and local knowledge

I guess I was the nearest thing to an intermediary in the room. People seemed to be looking to me to provide answers to how people organised their DC pensions to and through retirement, in and out of employment and through later life into inheritance.

Most intermediaries – IFAs especially – are charged with understanding the wider world. We rely on financial advisers to be our astral Magellans and guide us from one continent to another -even into new found lands!

But there are too few Magellans and too many travellers. We need a Financial Satellite Navigation system but we also need the map that shows us where we are and where we are going.

My fear – and this is what is driving me to create a digital service that does this, is that too few of us have the knowledge to manage our own financial affairs in later life.

As I prepare for the second day of AgeWage’s public crowdfund, it is with a sharper vision of what is needed.

Who is at the heart of pensions – we are!

I had to leave the discussion early, but I could see its direction of travel. Employers aren’t at the heart of pensions, any more than trustees or fund managers or platforms or advisers or lawyers.

At the heart of pensions are the people they are for, the people who save and the people who spend. The people I work with and the people I was on holiday with on the beach in Sri Lanka.

If we think that we are working for intermediaries like employers and trustees and advisers and platforms we kid ourselves. We are working for the people who ultimately pay for our services.

The customer is always the person who saves for retirement and spends in retirement and we can only organise the DC pensions map around that person. They pay us.


About henry tapper

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