I’m not a fan of pension conferences – they are generally a way to reinforce existing prejudices and give participants a sense of their importance without challenge.
But recently I’ve been working with DG publishing on conferences that bring different groups of people together, to better understand how others work.
Last week I spent a day in the company of people who run the Local Government Pension Schemes and they had the company of me, and many others from the private sector.
DG conferences are held under the Chatham House Rule so I can’t say who said what- (without their permission). I’m no fan of the Chatham House rule either. It strikes me as a licence to gossip without accountability. However it does release me from reporting on the various arguments that made this week’s conference so interesting and vital.
The LGPS is an open defined benefit arrangement that covers thousands of employers and millions of members. It is funded by council tax payers and ultimately the wider tax-paying public. As such it can spread the love around – witness the large number of asset managers and consultants sponsoring.
Before now, I had assumed that LGPS officials were comfy operating a gravy train for institutional fund managers but am now not so sure. The quality of those who I met at this conference suggests that the public purse is being protected rather than squandered.
It was refreshing to see tough questions being asked about received ideas. The ESG agenda, that dominated almost every session was questioned, not out of denial for the need for change, but to ensure that managers were not greenwashing or profiteering. I hope that those in the public sector picked up on the private sector’s scepticism.
It was clear by the end of a day and night’s contention that something explosive was happening, Pension fission happened as the once stable elite were challenged by the likes of me.
The dynamic between buyer and seller, corporate and private risk is set to be repeated on June 12th at County Hall. You can read about it here.
For Public v Private sector (which we experienced this week), we’ll get the fusion between those who see Defined Contribution pensions from the institutional and retail perspective.
Fusion and Fission*
Were it not for the dynamism created by putting these complimentary but disparate groups in a room together, I wouldn’t bother with these conferences. But I am energised by the commercial and intellectual opportunities that they present me with.
So I have taken on a role as an advisor to the DG proposition and will be promoting the work I and others are doing for DG to make these events better known, better attended and more influential,