I haven’t got a lot to say about MAPS’ UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing – published yesterday. Having read it , I’m not sure how it is going to help me as a person, business owner as part of British society. It is a statement of intent to improve the financial wellness of the British population but beyond setting the agenda for change, I struggle to find much in the strategy document that helps us understand how change will come about.
I feel a little disappointed. I would have liked to have felt more comfortable knowing the part that Pension Wise and the Pension Dashboard would play in improving things. On Pension Wise there is nothing (but an acknowledgement that it contributed to what MAPS “listened to”). The Dashboard gets mentioned but in a “hypothetical” set of suggestions.
The big picture for pensions
MAPS reckons that about 45% (23.6m) of the working population feel it is ready to retire. Over the next 10 years it wants this to increase to 28.6m and it’s going to do another Wellness survey in 2030 to see if this worked out.
I suspect this will be one of those surveys that will allow Government to blame the private sector if nothing changes and take all the glory for itself , if it does. Frankly there is too little accountability on MAPS for creating change for this goal to justify MAPS being at the heart of things for 10 more years.
The little picture for pensions
This is something we can all sign up to, but how is this going to happen?
What is conspicuously missing from this statement is the role of Pension Wise as the instrument of change. The emphasis on MAPS’ function seems to have changed from delivering guidance to influencing how others deliver guidance.
I am suspicious about this, it seems that MAPS rather than being a resource, is becoming an extension of the regulatory perimetre of the FCA (and the unmentioned Pension Regulator).
I confess to being totally baffled by why people would use life events like “parental leave” or “divorce” to use the pensions dashboard. The obvious point at which the pensions dashboard becomes relevant is at retirement, the obvious questions are “where’s my money gone?” and “how’s it done?”
While MAPS has been “listening” organisations like the PLSA have been delivering standards such as the Retirement Living Wage initiative. The TTF recently set up a meeting with UKAS to look at how standards for Value for Money could work. I hope that MAPS will respond better to the TTF initiative in 2020 than it did in 2019.
I can think of no other instance where a Government body has been given what amounts to a year off, to “blue sky” and come back with so little by way of positive suggestions.
So what will MAPS actually do?
Apart from trying to control how the dashboard will be used and acting as an extension of the FCA’s interference in product design, the answer seems to be about influence.
As if we didn’t have enough noise from the think-tanks , MAPS wants to join in. Its “Activation Period” will see MAPS becoming a convenor for all the people who like talking about pensions. A sort of off-line twitter if you will.
How this adds up to getting 5m more people capable of turning pension pots into retirement plans is not clear. Simply telling people to work harder is easy enough, doing the work is a lot more painful. MAPS doesn’t seem accountable in any way for the delivery of the 5m extra engaged pension savers, nice work if you can get it.
If I was going to market with this as a business plan, I would be sent away to come back with something that had a much clearer focus on delivery.
MAPS is setting out to take a great deal of public money from the levy in order to set up a think tank, oversee the delivery of the dashboard and to work with “industry” to make it more effective.
This is normally the function of consultants and we have quite enough of them,
Where is the leader?
This document is being delivered three months behind schedule by an acting CEO , replacing the previous CEO who left in the middle of last year after 6 months in post.
The dashboard , which was supposed to be doing stuff by now, looks like it won’t be doing stuff till 2021 at the earliest.
Meanwhile TPAS and Pensions Wise, the two strike forces of MAPS’ pension strategy, are barely mentioned and instead we have an amorphous set of “hypothetical suggestions” which seem to tread on the toes of other arms length bodies, regulators and Government itself.
My question is simple – can we expect better of the next decade, or are we resigned to paying for this?