Wednesday, 15 October 2014


The announcement that the NAPF and PMI are likely to merge is an interesting one.

Both are citing improvements in management, pooling of resources and greater influence in the industry. But I guess it also reflects a decrease in DB schemes, traditionally the ‘bread and butter’ for the NAPF. They came to embrace DC rather late in the day and I’m guessing not so many DC schemes are interested in being part of (and paying a fee for) membership of the NAPF.

Of course, the NAPF gets a lot of support and income from consultants and providers as well, but if they can’t claim to be speaking for company pension schemes as well, there’s a problem.

As for the PMI, they came out of the Chartered Insurance Institute originally and have kept close to their original remit of maintaining and promoting pensions excellence through professional exams. I’m not so sure what’s in a merger for the PMI –unless of course they are low on volunteers which would be pretty essential for their continuation.

All in all, it’s a reflection of a decreasing profile for employer sponsored pension plans. And with auto-enrolment and the new proposed tax changes, that decrease will pick up pace as companies embrace standard industry products.

Not the happiest of backgrounds for the NAPF conference which starts today.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ninth But Slipping

We’re ninth again. The same as last year. But for how long?

Mercer’s Worldwide Global Pension Index puts the UK behind Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia and Chile among others, but well ahead of France, Italy, China and India.

The warning is though that with the new reforms (the Taxation of Pensions Bill was published today), we will slip down the rankings. More freedom to take a pension in various forms comes with a health warning. If savers can’t manage those savings well and spend their pension pot before they die, then they fall back on the State. It’s happened in Australia (called ‘double dipping') and could happen here.

In the name of freedom, our rankings may fall.

So much depends on good communication and advice. Osborne is enjoying positive pension headlines today with the publishing of the Pensions Bill, but if the government don’t back it up with adequate education and advice, we’ll be slipping down that table.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Why We Provide A Pension

Here's a good reason why we work so hard to ensure there are pensions for people.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Seeing Red - The New AHC

I’ve got a soft spot for pensions communication company AHC. Not least because I used to work for them.

So their new web site and relaunch are good news to me. Gone is the over complicated old web site, full of words and hard to follow.

In its place, a new design. Not far off what we have done with Pension Geeks.

I like the cleanness of it. It’s easier to navigate and the messages are clearer.

Having said that, the front page is just plain annoying! I like the video of everyone. Faces I recognise and many I miss. It shows the magnificence of Heath Hall and tells the story well of a young and dynamic workforce. Playing croquet, answering phones, looking busy. A bit too signposted in places, but a good message.

The annoying bit though is the 70 or so words that fill the middle of the screen, so you can’t see the video properly. I found myself wanting to hit the delete button, but there wasn’t one!

The words themselves look like they were manufactured by committee. Pretty much at odds with the clearness of the message elsewhere on the site. Just plain strange.

The other change is the name. Gone is Anthony Hodges Consulting, replaced by plain AHC. And a new logo too. In red. And in a speech bubble.

Red is a bit of an aggressive colour and to put it in a speech bubble seems a little too pushy to me.

But overall, a great new site.

May AHC only ever see red on their logo and never on their balance sheet!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Left Hand Doesn’t Know What the Right Hand is Doing

This is an oft-used idiom with a Biblical foundation (‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’: Matthew 6:3). In its original context, it’s used positively. But we’re talking  pensions here and I want to use it negatively!

Professional Pensions writes about the decision to have a number of different organisations dealing with pensions guidance. There’s TPAS, the Money Advice Service, a new offshoot of TPAS and a new directly controlled Treasury operation.

Three organisations and four delivery mechanisms.

Back to the quote. On the basis that there will not be enough resource put in place, how long before chaos ensues?!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The True Colours of the NAPF

The true colours of the National Association of Pension Funds are showing through in their latest comments. They are recorded in Professional Pensions Magazine as saying that signposting members to the guidance guarantee could cost: ‘In the case of the largest schemes this could be in excess of £100,000 a year’.

And so, the NAPF is again exposed as thinking about their largest members. If a plan has millions under investment and the company is a multi-million pound enterprise, then £100,000 could be seen as quite reasonable.

What about the small and medium sized employers? Their costs of signposting may be less than £100,000 of course, but in real terms, a much higher percentage of funds under management or of the company’s value.

The NAPF are also recorded as questioning the need to signpost every time pensions are mentioned, especially if the member is ‘many years’ from needing it. Again, this is missing the point. If the member is in a guaranteed Defined Benefit plan, then maybe so. But if it’s Defined Contribution, then the more they can save at an earlier age the better. Again, the NAPF has shown its true colours. Not just a big company bias, but a DB bias.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Instant Society

Yesterday was Pension Awareness Day. The BBC ran a pensions programme called Inside Out, looking at the pension cheats and the need to save. It even had a cameo performance from Steve Webb, chatting to pensioners on a bus.

Joan is 93. In the programme she comments on the cultural shift towards spending now.

'Nowadays, young people don't know how to save - because they've never had to save. It's a throwaway society. They've never had to make do and mend like we had to.'

There's something in that. In our instant, 40,000 googles-a-second society, everything is instant. Saving isn't.