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I want holes not power drills

07 September 2017

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Peter Nicholas interestingly draws comparison between the necessary yet neglected drill in the cupboard and pension savings.

I have a wonderful power drill. It was given to me as a Christmas present a few years ago along with 103 drill bits for use in wood, metal or masonry as required. It's a high trust brand, Bosch, a brand that is enslaved for many other domestic tasks in my house - refrigeration, dishwashing, microwaving and clothes washing.

But for most of the time my Bosch drill-set sits idle, in a cupboard, alongside my spirit level, my electronic measuring device (which I must admit I have never used for anything other than as a fancy laser pointer) and my wire stripper for electrical cables.

Despite its almost perpetual apparent obsolescence I have a power drill. In reality, I don't want a power drill, I never have.

However, from time to time I need a hole.

I'm not really interested in the features of my drill, not its torque, its maximum impact rate, the size of its drill spindle thread, its chuck capacity, nor its lithium ion battery – I just want my hole.

It's the same with pensions, not many people want a pension. For most of their lives pensions are not top of mind. Information on their pension sits in the back of a drawer, or on a pile of things they "must" read or as an unread email in an ever-growing inbox.

They don't know, and in many cases don't want to know, the features of their pension - but they do want their "hole", in this case a retirement lifestyle that is certain and assured.

So why as an industry are we still so fixated on the drill? Surely the overriding purpose of pensions is to deliver good member outcomes, to deliver the "holes" they want and need. Yes, the "drills" must be well built, reliable and quality controlled (governed) so they can deliver to their purpose, the "hole" the member expects.

What can we do to shift our focus to the members' reality? How can we shape our communications to focus on the "hole" and not the "drill"? When are we going to make member marketing and communications capability as much an essential competency around a trustee board table as investment management capability?

Admittedly there is an even bigger picture, many people don't even know they need a hole. But interestingly I have had a greater interest in holes since I have had my drill.

Written by Peter Nicholas,Managing Director & CEO