Happy Wednesday again siblings, and I hope you have managed to keep the roof on over the last few dramatic days. I was going to make a gag about a good blow in January but apparently that’s ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unprofessional’ so let’s blow right past it and get on with this week’s matter in hand.
Oh, stop it.
A pensionsy week this week. There are a few reasons for this, and only one of them is the fact that the new Pensions Minister, Paul Maynard MP, will be having a fireside chat with oor ain Tom McPhail at Regenerate on 8 February. There’s a whole bunch going on with pensions right now – more in a moment – and there’s no better time to hear from the person in the hotseat. I think this is only the second industry conference he’s done since being appointed, and the first that’s aimed at the advice profession. Might be wrong about that, but it’s what I think. Anyway, you know what I’m going to say next – if you want to hear what’s going on, come along on 8 February to Kings Place in London, or book in to stream it online. We’ve also got Kate Blatchford-Hick from the FCA and many other fine people, including a live simulcast virtual debate across three continents because I’m an idiot and life’s not hard enough.
Two other reasons pensions are in my mind this week. First up, Origo has published its transfer index times based on cash transfers running through its Options service. You can find the index here. Long story short, not everyone publishes their times, and some of the worst offenders for camping on pension money like…a thing that camps on another thing certainly aren’t about to share their shame with the class. But for those who do, the average transfer time went from 14 days in 2022 to 12.5 days in 2023. ‘Simpler’ transfers, where broadly speaking no external parties like trustees or recalcitrant investment managers are involved, went from 12 days down to just over 10 days. That represents about 90% of transfers in Origo’s index, by the way.
These figures are an improvement on last year’s, but are worse than 2019; that being the last year before any pandemic effects really took hold. The figures were 8.7 and 7.9 days respectively for 2019.
Some of the names that did well in 2023 might surprise you – MetLife, Forester Life and NFU Mutual all did well. Aviva, Fidelity, CleriMed and L&G all did well too on the overall figure, scoring less than 10 days on average. A surprise villain is Vanguard with 23 days on average. LV= also had a ‘mare, with over 25 days on average.
Data is as data does; what’s interesting is why things are as they are. I’m not surprised to see times jumping over the pandemic years; it’s encouraging that they’re settling back down a bit. But they should be falling faster. Is it indolence? Is it split focus with regulatory developments swallowing staff time? Is it commercial pressure meaning staff numbers are falling?
Whatever the case, it’s not helped by the massive explosion in small pots that’s an inevitable consequence of our fractured system and modern hypermobile work patterns. Today is the last day for responding to the DWP call for evidence on ‘Looking to the future: greater member security and rebalancing risk’ – that’s policy wonk for Pot for Life / lifetime provider – and if you have a strong view then you can weigh in until midnight here. Not everyone’s in favour…
We’re still subject to a fantastically complex pensions landscape; one which doesn’t get easier as policymakers play around with it to the benefit of various constituencies. Have a look at this piece by Andy Tully on whether clients should crystallise before April due to LTA changes; as you all know none of this works in a vacuum, and each part of long-term savings touches each other part.
Back in the day, Adair Turner’s commission got some movement on pensions by bringing most interested parties round the table and, one assumes, locking the door and refusing exit until some form of consensus prevailed. We need something like this now – a long-term savings commission – to try and make sense of where we are. Pots are emptying out as the cost of living strikes. A generation of DC-only clients is about to try and live on its accrued savings. And a new generation is growing up with tiny accrual rates and hoping for the best. It’s surely a nettle worth grasping.
I guess that’s the sort of thing we might talk about in a couple of weeks. We’ll see…
Never mind anything else. NEW ARAB STRAP RECORD. I REPEAT: NEW ARAB STRAP RECORD. This is not a drill. Here’s Bliss and it’s everything you could want. Amazing video too.