Mike Berners-Lee’s “values for our money”.

The latest Nico/Darren VFM podcast is out and features Mike Berners-Lee talking about values for our money. You can listen to it and 11 others from this link.

My son, who knows about these things, reckons Mike Berners-Lee “really excellent”.

He comes across as  pretty smart and has his own phrase “the poly-crisis” which suggests we are ending up in big trouble as we don’t seem to be getting anywhere in slowing global warning.

The podcast deserts the usual format – where Nico and Darren muck about for a bit before getting the guest to do his/her party piece. Instead we get a sermon on 1.5 degrees with “cascading tipping points” likely to destroy us all.

“Methane is exploding out of the permafrost” and we don’t even know  what we’re doing. It’s “eve of destruction” stuff and Nico joins in with incredulity about how the PRA and Bank of England aren’t locking down the insurance industry to face up to the pol-crisis/omnishambles.

We get to minute 20 before we start talking about TCFD and at 24 minutes we finally have a glancing mention of member outcomes (immediately apologised for). The impression we are getting at this point is that we might as well give up on improving value for money as we will be so distressed from the “poly-crisis” that pension outcomes will be irrelevant.

At 34 minutes “Mike” was asked “how he got into pensions?” to which he answered by a plug for a book about bananas and then another book about the “burning question” and then it’s back to the poly-crisis. After three minutes we find out that pensions are useful in helping to solve the much more important issue of a burning planet.

Then we’re into the trite reductionism of ESG as practiced by asset managers. Another lecture follows about what’s required from an ESG assessment and then we’re on to the increasing cynicism of the general public about trusted pensions. At 42 minutes Mike finally says something about people with pensions before Nico turns the pod to the question “can we have sustainable capitalism”.  Lots of discussion follows about genetics and neuroscience and social history disproving the neo-liberal agenda, leading us to another lecture about values. truth-telling and co-operation.

I had dreaded listening to this podcast and  I was right to. The podcast is nothing to do with pensions and everything about Mike Berners-Lee and climate change. It is not good enough to preach at an audience in this way. Simply aligning yourself to the imposition of an alternative agenda , is not the job of the hosts.

At 52 minutes we get to the title of this blog, as Nico tries to re-introduce pensions into a pension podcast. The conclusion we are supposed to take out of this is “stand back and think about what life is all about” and “life is not about money but about values”.

Berners Lee says that asset managers need to feel the risk of being sued for negligence if they don’t show responsible behaviors (as that is their fiduciary duty).

The final minutes of the podcast concern themselves with a discussion on morality, on Government interventions through carbon taxes and on reducing poverty. There should be a carbon price which is not a carbon tax but has the capacity to prohibit the mining of fossil fuels in the ground.  Apparently , the price could generate Government revenues that could pay for a living wage.

Nico worries at the end of the pod that it may have tried out patience, it certainly tried mine. The Value for Money consultation does not mention climate change , ESG or TCFD and I hope that in future podcasts we will get back to the matter in hand.

“Value for money” and the “values of our money”- should not be conflated.






About henry tapper

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