The cyber-threat at the macro-level
Today Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee will publish its long awaited findings into the cyber-threat to this country posed by Russia. The threat will no doubt have come from a malign influence over political decision making from an outside source. There will be calls for tighter controls of our social media and a retreat from the globalism of the world wide web.
We have been here before, many times since the second world war. The remedies that will be put forward by Government will be for the UK to retreat away from using new technology and for a centralization of our cyber-resistance into the state. This is natural, this is how Government behaves.
The cyber threat at the micro level
We can’t watch commercial television channels long before a grinning jet-skier and a diddled pensioner appear, reminding us that our pensions are under the same threat as our politics.
It is very possibly true that pension scamming is a greater threat in the pandemic , especially as our home finances deteriorates as the furlough ends.
And as with Russia, the pension scammer will be considered primarily a cyber-threat. It is the novelty of cyber-scamming which makes it such a scare. It presents a threat that we don’t understand , denuding our bank accounts while we watch on powerless.
Once again the reaction is for the UK to retreat away from using new technology and for a centralization of our cyber-resistance into the state.
We cannot let fear paralyze innovation
There are many prejudices which stifle progress. Over the past few weeks we have seen a prejudice against the private sector using of the internet to help people make financial decisions. Amendments 52 and 63 to the Pensions Schemes Bill, which set out to stop the commercialization of the Government dashboard and delay the creation of commercial dashboards are two examples.
They are evidence of Government’s wish to centralize and control – quite normal behaviors. But like the pension scamming adverts, these amendments are creating a climate of fear around pensions that is paralyzing the innovation needed to deliver the help people need to get on with managing their later life finances. They are also stifling investment into the innovative companies that are working towards financial vaccines.
Government as a force for good.
Today I will be working on three Government led initiatives that instead of stifling innovation, encourage it.
The first is an application for a grant to deliver support to work forces that will, later this year be suffering the economic turbulence in the wake of the pandemic. Thanks to Innovate UK, resource is available to fund the research and development necessary to deliver apps that help people through the financial adjustments needed when reaching premature early retirement.
The second is in our work with the FCA’s innovation hub and policy teams in better understanding what people consider value for money and finding ways to get their pension data to tell them if they have it, more on this later this week.
The third is in my drafting a letter to the Pensions Minister, following a meeting with him yesterday. The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule and I am not free to quote Guy Opperman, but I can say that we have a pensions minister who sees the bigger picture.
Here are three instances of Government being on the side of progress and I am pleased to be on the side of the Government.
Progressing out of the pandemic
We heard yesterday of progress towards a vaccine – indeed a number of vaccines. While these will not eliminate the threat of COVID-19, they will at least make it easier to live with that threat in a way that is easier than today.
The delivery of the vaccines will create new fears and revive old prejudices and it will be for Government to manage not just our delivery , but people’s reaction to vaccination.
If Government were to have centralized research , rather than allow the private sector to get on with it, then we would not have made the progress we have, I fully expect for the vaccination programs to be delivered by the private sector with Government support.
This trust in global pharma is the only way we can get out of the pandemic within the next twelve months.
We can learn from the harmonious workings of Government and private pharma. We need a similar harmony between Government and financial services.
It became clear in my meeting with Guy Opperman yesterday that that harmony is not yet there, that there is distrust between those who hold the great repositories of pension data and those who wish that data to be shared.
It is evident in the secrecy with which the various working groups of he Pensions Dashboard Program are working. We do not know who for instance is in the groups nor are we getting much in terms of progress reporting other than tightly controlled consultations that appear to require us to endorse decisions that have already been taken.
The way forward is through collaboration , not through secrecy . While in sic months, pharma has collapsed a decade’s worth of work into the delivery of solutions, the progress towards the delivery of a proper state funded pension guidance solution is still moving at a snail’s pace.
We cannot let fear paralyze innovation, we must take longer steps to deliver