“Salford rules” read Peter Hook’s amplifier on Saturday night. Manchester remains Britain’s alternative cultural capital. It is the home of proper music, football and for the next three days – me.
This time last year, I was preparing to speak on a panel with Fiona Bruce about “topical pension issues”. We’d prepped “cost of living” and “value for money” but in truth there was only one thing on all our minds – the unfolding drama of leveraged LDI.
Bizarrely, Bruce, Carol Young and I are now the homepage of the PLSA’s website. That’s certainly “alternative”.
We need an alternative pension scene just as we have an alternative music scene. I’m proud that I pointed out to delegates that the LDI crisis was one of our own making. Many were in denial that LDI had its own risks and some hadn’t woken up to the reality that hundreds of billions of pounds worth of real assets were being sold to meet the demands of the banks on the other side of the borrowing.
I hope this year that there will be alternative voices speaking to us on the big issues of 2023. To my mind, the biggest of these issues is the importance of the £3 tr in funded pensions as the capital base for UK investment. To disconnect our saving for retirement from the quality of our retirement is to miss the big picture that troubles the 20 million savers who are being represented by the PLSA.
Yes we want to retire in comfort and that means a Britain which we can live in without threat from our climate or our neighbours. It’s a Britain we can confidently expect our children to enjoy when they retire. I am not so nationalistic as to suppose that we are isolated from Europe, the States and from the Far East and Africa. But I do agree with a fundamental premise behind the Mansion House Reforms, that the UK pension system is about Britain’s future , not just the narrow issues of solvency that take up so much of Conference time.
This bigger picture was what I referred to from the stage last year. Martin Woolf, writing in the FT this week puts it very well
By forcing inherently uncertain long-term pension promises to become — at least notionally — certain, huge damage has been inflicted on UK capital markets and done to the country’s corporate sector. It is too late to undo the damage of opportunities foregone. It is not too late to stop inflicting more harm in the future.
We cannot change the past , but we can do more in the future. Looking again at the nature of the promises we are (or aren’t) making to DB and DC “savers” is that this Conference should be doing. Pensions are lifetime savings and lifetime savings are pensions, but whatever we call them, they amount to the same thing – they are our financial future.
They are also key to the financial future of Britain.