The very unsensible policy agenda handed to TPR – POD 28.

Louise Davey -TPR

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.




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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8 Responses to The very unsensible policy agenda handed to TPR – POD 28.

  1. Mike Clark says:

    So misguided, sorry Henry. The Minsky Climate Cascade is quite likely to arrive sometime and will put much of the other stuff in the shade. Lou did a fantastic job and, dare I say it, may care more about the savings of pensioners than you do. Hard to consider, but not impossible.

    I hope you have read the two papers she referenced. Full disclosure, my fingerprints are all over both. And there is more to come from a UK pension fund that has moved to using Decison Useful Climate Scenarios. Which the official ones are not. Do read those papers, please…

    • henry tapper says:

      Mike, I haven’t read the papers and I don’t profess to be an expert in these matters.

      I am not entirely sure why TPR are regulating TCFD reporting – is this part of their objectives, is this really their area of expertise? But let that be – Lou knows that I admire her and I’ve made it clear to her boss that I think she is the right person to martial policy.

      As for Minsky moments, I hope we avoid them. I have no car, don’t fly and do my best to encourage my friends and family to do what they can. But I am focussed on other parts of the pension ecosystem, we can’t all focus on the same thing- and I don’t think we should.

      • Mike Clark says:

        Thanks for your gracious reply, Henry. I need to say some have read your blog as lessening the existential importance of the systemic risk of climate change (and also the economic opportunities it brings, a point rarely made).

        To your question, TPR regulate this because of the latest Pensions Act. Which I fully support, having helped DWP when it was just a Bill under the wise hand of Guy Opperman.You make a good point – their expertise needs to grow, and I am helping! BTW – soon we hope they will be regulating transition plans. That is strategic risk management whilst reporting is, well, just reporting.

        I must say to you very directly: Hope Is Not A Strategy. I do agree with your last sentence – you have expertise there that I do not. But I do hope that when you sit round the trustee table one of your colleagues is on top of this. Reputation risk is growing, and litigation risk is beginnig to show.

        Let me leave you with a question, please. I assume you believe climate change is a systemic risk. And also that it is not fully priced by markets today. Many of us treat that as a self-evident truth.

        If so, as the Minsky Climate Cascade (it won’t be a “Moment”) gathers steam, how will the pension funds you are linked to have (previously) directed their managers so they are less exposed to stranding assets, and more exposed to the investments which benefit? This is a beta game, strategic, not solely an alpha one. Pensioners live in an absolute return world, whilst investors too often play a relative returns game. Investment managers need their clients to be influential and demanding, strategically. And beneficaires need that of their trustees.

        This is my first time on AgeWage – do some conversations blossom?

        Best, Mike

      • henry tapper says:

        Hi Mike, as you ask, AgeWage and Pension PlayPen interact with the pensionati in lots of ways.
        1. This blog – which is mainly me – but has lots of guest bloggers (you could be one)
        2. The AgeWage and Pension PlayPen linked in group (nearly 14,000 strong with a northern sub-group1)
        3. which is another online community , chiefly known for its weekly coffee mornings (which you might like to attend
        4. which is a transactional website for people trying to find out if they get VFM from pensions

        We do a little work on TCFD reports but we don’t have a big focus on ESG, mot out of purpose but because there is so much else to do!

        I do accept that a lot of my hope for the future is founded on some pretty flimsy evidence that we’ll hit any of these targets. But this Minsky chap reminds me of Chicken Licken.

      • Mike Clark says:

        Thanks a lot for this info, and the invitatiion.

        I would like an opportunity to chat about these things and will hopefully get back to you/AgeWage on that.

        I assure you in finance it ain’t Chicken Licken, more like KFC (Killed fru Climate), a big MacMinsky, or a Falling Dominoes Pizza…

      • Mike Clark says:

        Yes, that’s the sort of thing, Henry. Thanks for asking. Plenty of other candidates apart from AMOC: Labrador Sea convection, some of the big ice sheets, etc.

        The key point is that markets, that currently ignore this stuff, will begin to price in the risk (and uncertianty) way before the physical stuff gets too close.

        You may note one of the folks quoted comes from a pension fund that has just published its 2023 TCFD report, where it talks about moving beyond its previous scenario work (which was already leading edge), and moving to use decison-useful climate scenarios. Which I have helped to write. No numbers at a first pass – eeek!

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