I was sitting at a reception at the end of a packed day of debate that included a dance class and intense discussion. Into the room walked Tom McPhail – looking bemused. Within minutes he was listening to a delegate explaining how her pension scheme had recovered from 56% to 108% funding in ten years through its conviction that investing in the UK and in illiquid assets – would see their members right. Tom turned to me with a look that said “you told me it would be like this!”.
Indeed I did, these splendid people never cease to amaze me. I had breakfast with two mature ladies who I had never set eyes on before. We chatted happily about Merseyside, where they hailed from, I supposed the conversation inconsequential until we turned to scheme matters. These ladies were seriously on top of their briefs. They were chair and vice-chair of one of the biggest pension funds in Britain, in the afternoon I met their team, every one brimming with energy , enthusiasm and sense.
The DLUHC consultation on the organisation of LGPS pools and the disposition of assets is still running and much debated at the LGC Investment and Pensions Review. No one I have spoken to thinks that further consolidation is bad , nor that the extension of investment into private and illiquid markets is wrong. There is concern that the Government feels it needs to tell the LGPS to get on with it, when it has moved further -faster – towards the Mansion House goals.
Today I will be on a panel with Joe Dabrowski from the PLSA, Jo Segars and Tom. I have allowed my comments to lie fallow, pending what I’ve seen and heard in the past 36 hours. I will of course talk about life in the private sector, of the fall out since this time last year when things went so badly wrong. I’ll talk about the ongoing issues of turning pots to pensions and I’ll mention a couple of areas where I feel there is more that the LGPS can do for members. But all of this will be in the context of the deep admiration I have for the people I have met not just here but at previous events.
These people at the LGPS event are striving for excellence. When they compete, they compete for the top spot. When they pool , they think big. I spoke to one chair of a pool who admitted that at £60bn, they were only getting started.
That seemed to sum things up. There is an ambition at this event that I wish we could replicate in private pensions. In less than a month I will be at the PLSA annual conference in Manchester. Oh that we can achieve half of what LGPS are setting out to do.