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Pension proud

03 November 2017

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"I'm proud to work in pensions, but I'm jealous of the NHS" - Peter Nicholas

At the PLSA conference in Manchester last month I was challenged by a comment by Martin Fahy, the CEO of ASFA (Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia) the sister organisation of the PLSA.

He reflected on the prominence of the NHS in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 and questioned what the pensions industry needs to do to get equal billing next time?

The opening ceremony was an overload of British achievement. The £30 million spectacular, the brainchild of Oscar-winning British director Danny Boyle, included a segment where dozens of skipping nurses and children in pyjamas leaping acrobatically on massive hospital beds, with a large 'NHS' displayed.

It was a celebration of Britain's national health service, which has provided free, taxpayer-funded health care to everyone in the country since its foundation after the Second World War.

But there was nothing about pensions.

Love it or hate it everyone knows about the NHS. They know what it's for, what services it provides and, how to access it.

However, the same can't be said of pensions. Most people know very little about their pension, how it works or the retirement lifestyle it will fund.

What do we need to do to develop our pensions ambition? Our vision must be to ensure our retirement saving provision is the best in the world? Why would we even consider being second best?

Now this won't happen by accident, and it won't happen overnight. It will require a deliberate intention by policy makers, pensions industry determination, employer collaboration, creative engagement of our people but a societal change in the positioning of pensions is possible.

There are two main drivers of change, burning platform and burning ambition. Clearly if there is a burning platform, there is an immediacy to act. With pensions, there is a smouldering platform. Arguably by the time it's burning it's too late to change.

Burning ambition on the other hand needs a rallying cry. Is the prospect of a Zimmer frame flash mob, celebrating our pension prowess, at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2040 enough?

Peter Nicholas,Managing Director & CEO