This is the 26th VFM podcast and my 26th blog (27th if you include my apology to Nico for being rude about him). But it’s the first when Nico has had a proper job, I think he’s in charge of making a lot of noise at Newton. I have been making a lot of noise about Newton (as I live next door to them). During Lockdown, someone left the outside lights on at 60 QVS for nearly 6 months. I mention this to show how even when you have strong beliefs, actions speak louder than words!
Which is a nice segweg to their guest this week, Nathan Long, who for 20 years has been policy guru at Hargreaves Landsdown, a bike nut like Tom Mcphail and a very decent guy.
You can here him from this link
As well as being a man of words, Nathan is a man of action and he’s started up the Bristol Financial Resilience Group, aiming to make Brizzle employees the most resilient in Britain by ensuring they are making the most of their workplace pension contributions and keeping on top of their debt by doing smart things. Nathan is the first person I can remember on this podcast saying that it may be a smarter thing to opt out of a workplace pension if it’s doing in your financial resilience.
He points out that many low earners aren’t going to get a good deal out of pensions and he’s keen to point out the virtues of solvency and Lifetime ISAs: holistic financial planning and StepChange. In short Nathan is very active at keeping people financially in the pink.
Not impressed by Jeremy Hunt’s investment cliams
Nathan’s into contributions and consolidation and good decision making but he’s not into investments, so the Mansion House Reforms , with their emphasis on improving VFM by investing better, didn’t cut much ice with him. Claims that a 5% increased allocation to productive finance could land you with an extra £1,ooopa did not impress Nathan. They didn’t impress Darren or Nico either. Nico has missed the paper the Government has published on how that £1000 pa was arrived at. All good actuarial stuff.
As I have noted before, arguments about investment returns improving as a result of the VFM framework don’t seem to have caught on – on this podcast. I can sort of understand this for policy people, but I struggle to get Nico’s position because his last proper job was a CIO of Connected which was a boutique investment house looking to boost people’s investment returns by accessing the kind of investments that the Mansion House reforms are promoting.
My own view remains that denying savers the returns that can be enjoyed from private markets is a kind of financial deprivation of its own, but I’ve got in trouble before by disagreeing on these matters, so I’ll wrap this up by pointing out that the VFM consultation outcome document makes it very clear that more rather than less should be spent on investment within a workplace pension.
But back to Nathan and financial resilience
It’s great to hear someone shoot from the hip as Nathan does in this podcast. Nathan is on a mission and his actions do speak louder than his words. He speaks on the pod with the passion of someone who knows what financial worries are like and while I wouldn’t expect him to have them himself, I can see he cares deeply for his firm’s clients, especially those who in mortgage or even food poverty. Vantage, Hargreaves Lansdowne’s workplace pension has many savers in it for whom making pension contributions may well mean going without food or heating.
So I have a lot of respect for his performance on this podcast and will listen to it again.