PLSA investment conference- by leaves we live.


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Geddes’ and the City of Edinburgh

“By leaves we live” is the dictum given to Edinburgh by Patrick Geddes, one of those chaps I’d have loved to have met. I came accross him on my way to the PLSA conference , walking the Royal Mile from my AirbnB. According to the National Library of Scotland (also on my route), Geddes aim was ‘to see life whole’, and to achieve a better understanding of human beings in their natural, built, and social environments.

‘How many people think twice about a leaf? Yet the leaf is the chief product and phenomenon of Life: this is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent upon the leaves.’

Ezra Pound followed this up with another dictum “learn of the green world what can be thy place, pull down thy vanity”.

The Vanity of Human Wishes were clearly on display yesterday. In the face of the Coronavirus, the Governor of the Bank of England cut interest rates, the Chancellor of the Exchequer doled out £30bn and the delegates at #PLSAinvest20 assiduously scrubbed their hands.

This was not a day to fight each other. Stephen Timms and the Work and Pensions Select Committee meekly accepted MAPS’ blandishments about further delays to the dashboard. The great plan to reform tax relief has been shelved in favour of a reshaping of the Annual Allowance and its taper. The net pay anomaly will be investigated with a call for evidence to come, but everything, even the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, played second fiddle to Coronavirus.

Lived risk

It seems that half the conference is absent. One speaker who I’d travelled 400 miles to see, spoke on a webcast from an office 400 yards from mine in London. Many delegates aren’t here and if we struggle through to the end of the program, it will be as much an achievement as the fulfilment of Cheltenham’s racing festival.

We will look back at this event and wondered how it went ahead. Whether we do so with pride or with horror will depend on how events unfurl.

But there is a very real sense up here of being part of an enterprise. for once we are living the risk.

By leaves we live

For leaves read “people”, pensions are about people’s lives and older people are living in particular fear right now.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and to those around us, especially older folk, to keep the risk of assembling together to a minimum/

We will hear today discussions about the impact pension investing can make on the green world and whether you think of leaves, metaphorically or not, we interact with out planet in ways we can control.

Behaving responsibly to investors, to our planet , society or in business governance is the mark of a civilised and well run pensions industry. I was quite proud yesterday, to see how, when faced with the challenges of the day, people rose to them.

Geddes has been dead 90 years but his monument is much of the town planning of Edinburgh.

Another of his dictums was “learning by doing”, I am sure that in “getting things done”, the Chancellor will learn much too. Let’s hope that MAPS get things done too.

You can watch the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s conversation with MAPS here.



About henry tapper

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