From Osborne to CDC

Take one; – macro-economics at BlackRock

Yesterday was a day of wild cycle rides accross the streets of London to the offices of Aon, Alliance Bernstein and the palatial conference rooms of the Rosebury Hotel.

I was in search of the spark that would catch the tinder of CDC alight and along the way I came accross the architect of pension freedoms – George Osborne.

Osborne told us he is intending us to vote Liberal today, which might surprise Steve Webb. His opening gambit was to speculate whether Theresa May would have resigned before he shut up. She didn’t and he did, but not before dishing out the kind of macro-generalities required of an ex chancellor to justify his huge fee.

It was all a little too cosy for me. Yesterday was a day when 5000 steelworkers’ livelihood were put at risk because Greybull had abandoned British Steel as it had abandoned Comet and Monarch and Rylands before it. The conference claimed that alternatives were the new normal and subject to the same scrutiny for ESG as mainstream investments. I wondered about Greybull.

I had asked earlier in the day whether the conference sponsors has a view, but I was given an answer based on Chinese steel production volumes. As I have found elsewhere, ESG is easier to talk about in the abstract than as it touches ordinary people.

Whether it was George Osborne or Blackrock, there is a disconnect between Tory politicians , fund managers and the people that they serve . They are not quite like us but they are very like each other.

Take two; – mastertrusts , CDC and Alliance Bernstein

From the macro-abstract to the quotidien, a dash from Holborn to Mayfair had me at the offices of Alliance Bernstein talking CDC with master trusts and AB product managers.

While the architect of pension freedoms was preparing himself, we came to some pretty important conclusions

  1. Employers don’t want to set up CDC schemes on their own
  2. Employers are much readier to put staff in master trusts that offer CDC
  3. Ordinary people when given the choice – would mostly choose CDC

If George Osborne can spend his time making sweeping generalisations about the world economy, we could spend ours working out what is stopping master trusts like Salvus and Smart and the Nations Pension  (and even Mercer’s) offering longevity pooling for those who wanted it.

We could discuss the barriers to master trusts opening themselves to disconnected workers who might be self-employed, unemployed, retired or working for a non-participating employer, but who wanted to aggregate their savings with a master trust that would help them get a wage in retirement.

It was probably the most focussed discussion I have ever had on the future of CDC and thanks to everyone for what was a really rewarding two hours getting to grips with what is to come.

Take three; – the Kevin Wesbroom show at Aon

Kevin Wesbroom


After a quick pitstop at Moorgate WeWork to manage the mail, I was off to the cheese grater and Aon’s magnificent client suite to the PMI’s “CDC – past present and future session”. Tom McPhail and Douglas Hamilton of Royal Mail were on the undercard but this was big hair’s big night out and he did us proud .

While I’m not sure his account of Royal Mail’s exploration of CDC had quite as much to do with Aon as Kevin would have us believe, there’s no doubt that Aon’s modelling has done much to convince the DWP RM has the minimum viable product.

Royal Mail will be CDC’s proof of concept but in many ways Royal Mail is a one off.

Having seen the future of CDC at Alliance Bernstein and seen the reason for CDC at Black Rock’s conference, I was more convinced this event was about the past and present than about what was to come. It will be interesting to see if either Willis Towers Watson or Aon have the courage of their convictions and consider converting all or  part of their DC mastertrusts to CDC.

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A long way from Scunthorpe

We must keep our focus on what we are doing, helping people to better retirements. The Blackrock event seemed to have  lost that focus, the people we are working for weren’t in the room – in any sense.

The PMI are great for telling you what has happened but lack the entrepreneurial zeal to change the face of pensions

Where I saw the white heat of pension strategy was at Alliance Bernstein where the issues surrounding ordinary people trying to make sense of pensions was to the fore.

All three events illuminated each other and taught me that I’m a lucky lad to have access to such  goings on.

But in the back of my head are the steelworks at Scunthorpe and Teeside and the trauma that 5000 families are going through right now. It is people like them who need the reassurance of a strong financial future and should be the focus of all our attention


port talbot steel workers

About henry tapper

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