Don’t mention the war

There’s a lot of loose talk about “engagement” with our pensions.  At a high-level it makes sense to get people engaged with the positive aspects of pension investment. I have been blogging about this since I first heard Nigel Wilson of L&G arguing for Beveridge 2.0

But there is a darker side to this argument. The defaults of our workplace pension funds are to some extent invested in Russia, either in Russian companies or in loans to them – or in loans to the very Government that is currently threatening not just Ukraine, but world peace.

How do we explain this more sinister dimension to “make my money matters?”.

There are two ways of dealing with the issue. The first is to politely cough and hope that nobody asks awkward questions. The second is to tell people about Russian holdings and explain what is to become of them.

I wonder just how many fund managers, investment platforms and pension fiduciaries will use this chance to engage with members over Russian investments?

I have looked at the websites of many of the activist organisations I admire, Tumelo, Share Action and PIRC. They comment on the markets but it seems there is little  that can be done.

Faced with the stark reality of an exponential threat to the world, there appears to be very little that pension funds can do. And very little that can be said to pension scheme members.

It is as if ESG is caught in the headlights. I appreciate that for many providers, engagement is about getting people to pay more into their pensions and not about annoying fund managers about whether our money is invested in Putin’s pocket.

But pensions can’t have it both ways. Warm words about the positives of social impact and sustainable investments need to be balanced against the harsh reality that some of our money is aiding and abetting tyranny.

For an understanding of why that is, read the sister blog to this one, that talks to the issues of cluster investing via index-trackers and the vanity of believing you are a moral investor!

But to say nothing to savers about their investments right now, is at best a missed opportunity to get engagement and at worst an  abnegation in responsibility.


Make my Money Matter

One organisation that has reacted positively to the invasion of Ukraine is Make my Money Matter who sent out an email to subscribers yesterday. Here is that mail.

I’m sure you’ll have been following the news about Ukraine. We have too and are deeply concerned.

Our campaign was set up to help people understand more about the power of their pensions and provide more voice and choice in how that money is invested.

And while we have focussed on the environment so far, the impacts of our money don’t stop there.

Right now, our pensions are invested in Russian companies and Russian government debt. With the invasion of Ukraine, we believe this is wrong – both morally and financially.

Leading pension schemes agree. Several funds have committed to reduce their exposure to Russia. We believe all others must follow.

 Will you email your fund and ask them to divest from Russia? 

Contact your pension provider

Some schemes are already acting – but more is needed. Find out where your money is going, and make sure your pension fund acts urgently on Russian investments.
Clicking on the call to action and contacting your pension provider is precisely what we should be doing. I hope that after reading this, you do just that (I have).


About henry tapper

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