NOW pensions do not think my two recent articles about them are fair or accurate. Presumably they are looking for a retraction. I have nothing that I can retract. I have nothing to apologise for. I will try to understand what the executive and trustee boards consider unfair or inaccurate because I know them and have nothing against them as people. But as a pension scheme, NOW pensions is a busted flush.
I guess that none of us like criticism and in the fragile eco-system of corporate pensions, we’ve got used to “liking” each other and ignoring those outside our bubble who might have different views. So we don’t like to see this kind of thing.
Instead we are reassured by a 37 page Chair Statement that reminds us how well governed NOW is and that in all aspects of its value for money assessment, the scheme is giving members value for money.
Over the 10 years of its existence, I have always felt NOW will become a great pension. I have given it time, I have credited it for its great intentions and helped it through the various problems it has created for itself. But I am now calling time on NOW. I posted this on linked in last night, speaking as Founder and Chair of Pension PlayPen, an organisation that helped employers chose workplace pensions.
NOW has had plenty of time ,expertise and thought leaders working for it. They have considered many big issues , yet when it comes to doing the basics , they have repeatedly got it wrong.
Starting with the omni-shambles of their payroll middleware, the aborted relationship with Equiniti, the failure to sort out net pay when they moved administrator, their appalling record on transfers out, their destructive charging structure, their appalling fund performance , we have been patient. But to find out that the fund we called for and were promised 9 years ago, did not materialise, is a broken promise too far.
NOW purposefully misled me and the FT and many others into believing they had a fund they didn’t have. They thought that no one would notice and it appears that for a long time they got away with it. But now they have got caught out and their client is facing a legal challenge. I hope they will also be challenged by the Pensions Regulator because for all their heavyweight trustees and thought leaders, they are once again in the deepest of messes.
NOW do not respond to my emails to them (which are numerous). My only line of communication to them is through the unerringly decent Stefan Lundbergh, who features on this blog – for his good ideas.
In response to my two recent articles, criticising NOW for its failure to deliver the promised Sharia Fund in 2013, I got an email from its PR spin-doctors – Cicero.
I’m contacting you on behalf of NOW: Pensions. We have seen the two articles you have written which we don’t feel are fair or accurate. We want to be clear that we have been working with Uber since the beginning of the year to provide a Shariah-compliant investment fund and look forward to launching it soon.
We strongly dispute your comment that NOW: Pensions had not previously undertaken due diligence around a Shariah-compliant investment fund. We also want to clarify that we have been in discussion with The Pensions Regulator since the beginning of this year about our plans to launch a Shariah-compliant investment fund.
NOW may have seen that I have written two articles, but they clearly haven’t read them. I am not disputing that NOW did due diligence on Sharia funds in 2013 and they may be doing more now. I quoted their then CEO in 2013 saying
“we do not want any members to lose out on the benefits of auto-enrolment due to not being able to invest in a sharia-compliant fund, therefore external due diligence has been conducted on behalf of the trustees to appoint a provider to meet this need”
Due diligence may have been conducted but the fund did not arrive.
I am not disputing that they are doing everything they can to put in a Sharia fund now. I quoted Adrian Boulding 9 years later saying
“We don’t currently have a sharia-compliant fund but we are always keen to respond to member views,” ….“We are looking to launch this option for our members later this spring.”
Why wouldn’t you? When you’ve taken on an employer (UBER) 75% of whose workers are Muslim, when the member’s representative, the ADC union has launched a legal case against your client and when the Pensions Regulator is watching on.
To make it clear – I can read what is set before me in the FT’s Pension Expert – which is my source for these quotes.
What I am disputing is the good faith between NOW and my company, which helped nearly 10,000 employers choose a pension. NOW said one thing and did another and thought they’d get away with it. They haven’t and now they think it unfair and inaccurate to call this out.
I hear many things coming out of NOW – mostly through Cicero. But one word I never hear is “sorry“.
I agree with you Henry. When we advised on group pensions (late 90’s`) we always discussed with the employer the issue of exclusion and hence opted for providers that had an Ethical offering. I studied (but never sat) the CICI’s Islamic Finance module and read the Quran to improve my understanding of the issues of Interest and investments for potential clients and highlighted the need for both Ethical but also Sharia (based as it’s still a little wish washy) at Nest and yours and others influence meant that Nest launched a Sharia fund fairly early on. 9 years down the line, NOW have no excuse for further prevarication.
Hi Henry, I agree with you too. What you have written is entirely accurate, and identifies clearly the reasons for you being so dissatisfied and calling them out. There is indeed a culture in most countries, not just the UK, that if someone who is criticised doesn’t like what is said, they want a retraction. It is a shame that this approach is adopted, because how can any company improve its service if it does not listen to honest open feedback? Fair play to you, and I hope Now make use of the energy and money they are spending on using Cicero to deflect the criticism away from the problem, to instead address the problem itself.