The best thing I can say about this week’s VFM p0dcast is that it entirely sensible. Louise Davey, who is its star, turned down an ambition to take a degree for a more exciting opportunity in pension administration and her diligent application to the cause has seen her career develop to a point where she is now interim head of policy at the Pensions Regulator. Along with Sarah Smart and Nausicaa Delfas, she is one of three women who have become influential in a previously male dominated society.
She is a very sensible woman handling a very unsensible pensions agenda with considerable poise. Sadly – this makes for a rather dull 58 minutes.
The trouble with the podcast is that Louise Davy’s strengths are so sensible that it is hard to make 60 minutes of newsworthy listening, so this podcast falls a little flat
Rather than focus on issues of value or money, the podcast reverts to an ongoing theme about the capacity of pensions to protect the planet against climate change which has been a consistent undercurrent of the nearly 30 hours of broadcasting we have had so far.
While we have a lot to discuss on issues as various as CDC, pot follows member, superfunds , DC consolidation and advice and guidance, the current pensions agenda assumes that ESG is taking care of itself through its integration into fund management and its measurement through TCFD. This doesn’t mean it is excluded from the VFM agenda but it does make it rather hard to discuss.
The new TPR
What I had hoped we could have heard more of in this podcast , is how TPR is changing. It has a new “eco-conscious” building on Brighton’s Preston Road and a new CEO who is clearly intent on creating a new mindset both internally and among those she regulates.
I had hoped to get fresh insights into what this would mean, but Louise was better at articulating her own sense of excitement in this change than articulating what it meant to those listening.
As I understand it, from my energetic visit to the office (which seems to require a 40 minute walk from the nearest station) , TPR is intent on making our money matter through its investment in gainful enterprises that include the kind of enterprises that could best be considered “ambitious”. This from a “risk-based” regulator is quite a change in “mindset.
And the result of this change in direction is a move away from the old agenda of pension MOTs, dashboards and consumer awareness. This is our comfort zone and the new world of alternative risk financing, pension superfunds and productive finance isn’t.
I suspect that this podcast represents a look back rather than a look forward and that the full impact of the Mansion House reforms have yet to be properly absorbed.
The Mansion House reforms are anything but “sensible”
In the context of what the pensions regulator has been about since its inception, the new mindset looks anything but sensible.
The Pensions Regulator of Napier House is not the Pensions Regulator of Telecom House and the new growth powered agenda looks the Treasury’s rewrite of previous flawed attempts to reflate the British economy that ignored pensions.
Pensions are now at the heart of the economic agenda and it would be good if future episodes of the Pod could feature the architects of the Mansion House reforms- and focus on the “unsensible” but radical mindset that lies behind them.