Is Opperman getting it done? #PLSAinvest20

PLSA 2020


Three months is a long time in politics. At the beginning of December Guy Opperman was part of a minority Government seemingly on the ropes. Three months  later, he is part of a Government with a majority of 80 , a path to Brexit secured and a Pension Schemes Bill likely to be on the statute books by the summer recess.

The Guy Opperman we saw yesterday was transformed from the Guy Opperman of late last year. He has truly got his mojo back and he was brooking no opposition, indeed brooking no conversation as he laid down the law at the PLSA’s investment conference in Edinburgh, I bumped into him early in the morning as he swung through the press room , no time for Cheltenham chit-chat he was straight into a meeting with Richard Butcher and others on climate change.

That meeting went on behind closed doors but Butcher later reported to delegates that Guy Opperman was an “angry man”. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised, the PLSA’s  initial response to what they saw as Government interference on investment strategy has been documented on these pages and would not have met with ministerial approval.

Though the PLSA has softened its position since, clearly Opperman was in no mood for conciliation. We didn’t have long to wait for his speech to the Conference which was the highlight of a pretty epic day. Speaking as markets tumbled, he laid out his agenda with forthright energy that suggests that he has every intention of becoming Britain’s longest running pension minister. Not the usual 5 furlong dash, more a ride round Aintree.

So what was new?

Apart from the style, Opperman’s was a speech in the new “getting things done” style. This is good news because much of what he wants done is long overdue and showing little sign of getting done without  a substantial ministerial kick up the jacksey.

It’s worth reminding ourselves just what the Government has promised to get done (scores mine)

The Pension Dashboard – 2/5

We are expecting shortly a consultation on just what this data should be.  I hope that the approach suggested by Romi Savova and others with an open finance mentality, will be for a simple template that gets a minimum viable product done. The consultation needs to be as forthright as the Minister yesterday; the public are brooking no further delays, we want a way to find pensions and we want it within months.

The mealy mouthed protestations of MAPS at the Work and Pensions Select Committee yesterday that they could commit to no timetable will undoubtedly be of interest to the Pensions Minister. If he had taken questions yesterday, I’d have asked him if he thought we were getting value for money from the general levy – especially that part hypothecated to pay for MAPS. 14 months after the relaunch of the dashboard – Government is not getting it done.

Simplified pension statements 4/5

It may seem an easy win but it’s not. Opperman is providing support for the voluntary adoption of simplified pension statements and setting the right tone. He could do with listening a little to those who are having to face headwinds, but overall the Government are doing a good job – and Opperman is driving change not reacting to it

Reporting on the carbon footprint of a scheme. 5/5

Occasionally Government get it right and Opperman’s DWP are getting it absolutely right in their bid to get schemes to report to consistently about the adoption of strategies that help in meeting Britain’s emission targets and more generally, adoption of ESG principles.

Opperman left his audience in no doubt that the implementation of the strategy was in the hands of trustees but that if they didn’t follow the direction of travel of the country as a whole, he would use the Pensions Regulator’s powers to make sure that “things got done”


The Pensions Schemes Bill 4/5

The Pensions Bill is a big beast and it’s getting done. It doesn’t carry all before it , but it will provide us with important tools for the future. CDC and the pensions dashboard are the most obvious, climate change reporting – probably the most far reaching and the extra powers for tPR the unwanted appendix.

The Minister came under pressure as to why he didn’t include DB consolidation, judging by the new guidelines set out by tPR, it looks increasingly unpleasant to manage DB schemes without substantial support from the sponsor, most trustees will have to follow tPR’s rules which gives them little discretion. Increasingly, the option to consolidate will become attractive, rather than the last resort.

The problem with giving tPR new powers , without the option the option to walk away, will mean that many trustees are simply executors of the Living Will – written for them in Brighton.

Auto-enrolment 1/5

If Opperman is screwing up, it is in his failure to follow through on auto-enrolment. Frankly he is milking the good work of his predecessors and failing in his self-appointed duty as Britain’s first minister of financial inclusion.

He could and should be fighting the fight with the Treasury on behalf of the 1.7m auto-enrolled , who are not getting the incentives to reward their participation.

He could and should be doing more to include the self-employed in auto-enrolment. The “no shit-sherlock” findings of recent trials which discovered that the self-employed will not be nudged into pension savings by Government messaging should tell him all he needs to know about sidecars and other gimmicks. Stick with meaningful nudges like an opt-out of contributions made as part of the tax-system.

The take up of pension credits is too small and the shift to universal credit is not being properly explained.

He should also drop immediately the ludicrous suggestion that infrastructure and private equity should be included in the defaults of workplace pensions, with performance fees being paid over and outside the cap.

Overall score 16/25 (64% and A-)

I like Guy Opperman and I think I’d like him a little bit more if he did a bit more listening and didn’t quite so carried away with the sound of his own voice.

He’s now an accomplished pension minister – he knows his brief. He’s not as deep a thinker as Webb or Altmann , but he’s dynamic and effective and he’s doing just what a “getting it done government should be doing.

So here are my three messages to Guy Opperman, having thought a bit about what he said yesterday

  1. Stop milking auto-enrolment and get the financial inclusion trail back on the road. the people who are losing out don’t have a voice and the Minister of Financial Inclusion should be that voice.
  2. Sort out MAPS and get them doing proper work. Empower Chris Currie and the implementation group to get on with it
  3. Keep pushing on climate change and don’t get distracted by calls to get illiquids into workplace pensions, save the planet – not fund managers.





About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in advice gap, age wage, pensions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Is Opperman getting it done? #PLSAinvest20

  1. P D BEATTIE says:

    Usual ‘official speak’ and nothing to address the problems of the elderly and those defrauded by government for those of use being penolised in the FAS/PPF due to no fault of us who ‘did the right thing’!

    FAS/PPF Pensioner and Equiable Life Claiment

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