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A L i f e & Pe n s i o n s I n d u s t r y N e w s l e t t e r. December 2012

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Annuities - A Poor Harvest // Tom Murray - Head of Product Strategy - Exaxe This article was first published in the Investment Life &

general. The issue has brought annuity returns to the

Pensions Moneyfacts, Issue 193.

forefront of the public’s mind in a way that few

Keat’s season of mist and mellow fruitfulness is upon

pension or life assurance issues ever have been able. However there has been no sign of any of this

us and this is relevant for more than the agricultural

affecting the thinking of the monetary policy

community. Those who have arrived at their

committee (MPC) of the BoE. There is still a huge push

retirement age are about to discover precisely what

both inside the committee, and from former

the fruits of their labour add up to when the total

committee member on the outside, to continue with

value of their pension pots are revealed to them.

the QE policy in order to try to stimulate lending in the wider economy. It is as if this is the only economic

Then, like the farmers, the soon to be ex-workers will

issue in the UK that needs to be addressed.

have to see just how much money they can get for their particular harvest. Unlike the farmers though,

Meanwhile, aspiring pensioners are left dangling like a

those about to retire don’t have an opportunity to

Mayor of London on a zipwire, stranded by the lack of

plant for a new harvest, so getting the best possible

low-risk alternatives to an annuity that, at current

value for their savings is absolutely essential. This is

rates, are a very bad return for years of saving. It is

where the current batch of new pensioners are very

also hard to see how any adviser could be regarded as

unlucky as annuity rates are at an all-time low.

giving good advice to a pensioner if he recommends that they buy annuities at the current rates available.

Effects of QE on annuity rates

At current rates, conventional annuities no longer

up but most of them have significant downsides for

the amount that can be achieved by the remaining

The current global crisis has led to a massive increase

provide any value to those who need to secure an

the average annuitant. The options are primarily

healthy pensioners, as that particular pool will now

in the printing of money in the majority of OECD

income.

scheme pensions, income drawdown products,

live for longer and therefore will have to have their

variable annuities, and enhanced annuities. The

rates reduced to cope with the lengthened average

countries, including the United Kingdom. The Bank of England (BoE), under its quantitative easing (QE)

No cavalry in sight

difficulty with the first three is that the income

longevity. Thus increased use of enhanced annuities,

program, has released an extra £354 billion into the

It is clear that there will be no change in BoE policy

remains invested leaving the retiree exposed to two

while benefiting some pensioners, will ultimately

economy and has used that money to buy up

without a major change in the global economic

major risks – longevity and investment risk. This level

drive down the value of conventional annuities even

government bonds (Gilts), thus raising the price of the

situation, which is not looking likely in the medium

of risk is too much for the majority of pensioners

further, making them even more unattractive for the

bonds and driving down their yields.

term. In fact, the majority of commentators are

whose pension pot is far too small to risk any

average pensioner.

expecting a major increase in the QE programme in

reduction by poor investment performance.

Whatever effect this might have on the UK’s economy,

Where do we go from here?

November.

and the jury is still out on whether it is beneficial or

While the GAD rate rules prevent depletion of the

What can we do to provide a suitable pension vehicle

not, the lowering of Gilt yields has had a profound

This means that annuities are poor value for

drawdown pot too quickly, there is not a lot of benefit

for the future? In order to work out what’s required,

effect on the annuity market by causing annuity rates

pensioners and are likely to remain so for the

for the pensioner in stretching a small amount of

we need to understand what is required by pension-

to drop precipitously thereby reducing the pension

foreseeable future. So what should advisers and the

money over an even longer period as the longer the

ers. Most of them have relatively small pension pots –

amount that retirees are getting from their pension

industry in general be encouraging those retiring

pensioner lives, the lower the income will drop at each

the average pension pot held by a retiring British

pot.

currently to buy in order to get a decent return on a

review unless the investment returns start reaching

worker is a little over £30,000 according to the ABI

lifetime of saving?

extraordinary high levels.

(Association of British Insurers).

There has been a huge outcry about this in the

Alternatives to conventional annuities

Enhanced annuities can give higher amounts to those

Continued on Page 2...

pensions’ media in particular and the wider media in

There are a number of alternatives that keep cropping

with poor health but only by ultimately decreasing

End of the line for conventional annuities?

Making molehills out of a mountain // Ralph Tucker - UK Sales Director - Exaxe

IN THIS ISSUE

Distribution Review) the service delivered by the insurance providers will be a paramount decision in provider selection. Relying on systems that are in many cases over 20 years old will not do in this fast paced, informa-

Annuities - A Poor Harvest Making molehills out of a mountain

tion on demand, 24/7 industry we are becoming. So what is the answer? Gone are the days of

FCA should listen to wise words of Confucius

complete system replacement costing many millions of pounds. What we are seeing now is a

Income drawdown rule changes must be reversed

demand for point solutions designed to solve specific industry problems whilst addressing the

Stewart Reeder promoted to Client Director

discreet areas of each providers’ business operations, be that agency and commission, or the at retirement market. Many existing IT solutions will not be able to cope with the fluid

The unprecedented amount of legislation and regulatory change taking place over recent years has put a disproportionate amount of strain on the systems and operational capabilities of insurance companies. This strain has led to many short term “mend and make do” IT solutions to solve the problems of the businesses they support. This short term view has built up a bow wave of sticky

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requirements of the industry driven by consumer tape solutions that has created a problem of their own

demand for greater levels of transparency, simpler

and will still need to be addressed in the near future.

products and a need to react to industry trends at

No one is blaming the beleaguered overworked IT

a faster pace than coastal erosion!

departments of the insurance industry, for taking this stance. How else could they cope with the additional

Breaking down the problem into bite sized

strain of the legislative requirements on top of

chunks is the only way to address 30 years of

business as usual? However, it cannot be ignored that

systems’ neglect and deliver the service and

as we race toward the bright future of the new world

products that the modern consumer will demand.

The FSA needs to be wary of quick fix solutions Good news at last on longevity Pension reform - The gentleman is for turning Why are we afraid of compulsory pensions? Transform your operational risk

adviser and client empowerment post-RDR (Retail

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FCA should listen to wise words of Confucius // Ralph Tucker - UK Sales Director - Exaxe Time is slipping past. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is heading for abolition and with it the birth of the new regulatory system is approaching, with two separate authorities – the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), which will regulate the banking and investment markets, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which will monitor the distribution of financial products and services.

FCA, has the strength to resist this temptation and to

Wheatley should pause awhile and consider his

If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given

avoid trying to justify his budget, not to mention his

strategy. While doing so, he could do worse than

them by the rule of propriety, they will have the sense of

salary, by producing lots of new regulations, which will

ponder the following wisdom attributed to

shame, and moreover will become good’.

just impose cost on consumers and will prevent the

Confucius:

level of focus on innovation of new products that

The failure of the layers of detailed regulation that

better suit the market; a market that will be expanding

‘If the people be led by laws and uniformity sought to

have been dumped on distributors and producers

dramatically and changing due to the parallel

be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid

over the last decade and a half underlines the veracity

introduction of auto-enrolment.

the punishment, but have no sense of shame.

of the first half of the quotation. The second part is patently true; people who have a sense of shame will try to make sure that they are decent and fair in all

Already the FSA has separated internally into the two

their dealings with others, automatically ensuring that

areas and is running a ‘Twin Peaks’ approach to

they will treat the customer fairly.

financial regulation in preparation for the split, which will officially happen in 2013. Hints have been

I believe the industry would recover its reputation

dropped in various speeches given by those

faster if it was made clear that both distributors and

personnel who are destined for the FCA of how their

producers have a fiduciary duty to the consumer and

strategy will differ from the FSA approach. The

that they would be monitored on this, rather than by

temptation will be for the FCA to try to show they’ve

rafts of rigid regulations that some parts of the

arrived by announcing a raft of new proposals. It will

industry will waste time and money trying to

be very hard for the new team to take over and say

circumvent by ensuring that they meet the letter of

‘everything’s fine – no need for change’. After all, if it

the regulations while breaching their spirit.

had been, the FSA would not have been split in two. But a mountain of new regulation is the last thing that

It is generally more effective if you can inspire people

the consumer or the industry needs.

to be honest rather than spend your time trying to catch them out being dishonest.

I hope that Martin Wheatley, the incoming Head of the

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Annuities - A Poor Harvest (Contd.) // Tom Murray - Head of Product Strategy - Exaxe Global problem – UK crisis

returns, the amount of pension funding in infrastruc-

earnings through investment style drawdown

The lack of secure investment opportunities is a

tural projects has dropped to £175 billion this year

products without taking the risks that they currently

problem that is affecting all western economies to a

from £186 billion a year earlier, according to the

run, as the returns are ultimately underwritten by the

greater or lesser extent but it is most prevalent in the

Financial Times. Pension funds are voting with their

taxpayer.

would give them a annual income of £1,800 per

UK given the large amount of people with private

money very clearly and government needs to

annum on top of their state pension entitlement. This

pension savings in the UK and the level of restrictions

respond. It’s clear that better vehicles need to be

Access for pooled pension funds

is a very poor return which doesn’t justify the effort

around the type of financial products that pensioners

constructed in order to encourage pension funds to

Infrastructural investment opportunities need to be

involved in saving and is also not likely to encourage

are allowed to purchase. This means that the UK needs

provide the investment government needs while

structured to enable individual investment by those

the new wave of savers that are about to start saving

to be at the forefront of the search for an answer to

allowing the pension funds access to these secure

retirees who are managing their own investments in

due to the government’s auto enrolment programme.

this problem.

investment opportunities in a way that suits their

order to grow their investment in retirement. A new

needs.

way of pooling the smaller funds of those investing

Too old to gamble?

Private industry needs to work with government to

Pensioners are not like ordinary investors. They have

come up with long-term investments that can provide

Win-win solution

established to allow access for those who wish to

no tolerance for risk at all because by the time they

decent returns without relying on the vagaries of the

Improving the investment vehicles for government

avoid the conventional annuity but still are looking for

find out that their investment is not paying off, they

equity markets. One of the key opportunities that has

projects is only half the story as to date the govern-

safe investments to protect their pension. The

will then be too old to have any chance of re-entering

been mentioned is the use of pension funds by the

ment has focused on attracting large pension funds

investment also needs to be reasonably liquid and to

the workforce in order to make good their losses by

government to invest in long-term infrastructural

and has ignored the potential of the smaller pension

have regular payouts to fund the income needs of the

increasing their capital. Surveys of attitudes to risk

projects. Of course using pension funds to invest

investors, to the detriment of both the government

pensioners. These requirements should not be

prior to selling to those with low to medium size

directly in long-term infrastructural products is not

and the individual pensioners. It is in this area that

beyond the wit of those managing government funds

pension pots are therefore essentially pointless.

new but it needs to be organised in a way that is better

changes to the way these projects are funded could

to devise provided that they have the will to do it.

(Continued from Page 1)...

Based on average annuity quotation rates, this

their pension pots via a drawdown need to be

suited to the needs of the pension industry. At

provide investment opportunities for those seeking to

We urgently need a solution which will enable

present, they seem designed just to satisfy the desire

grow their pension pots post retirement while also

It is vital that we come up with new investment

pensioners, who want to avoid a conventional

of the government to fund their investment projects

giving the government access to a large pool of funds

vehicles that can be accessed by individual pensioners

annuity, to have access to some type of investment

directly from this source as opposed to borrowing in

that they currently don’t tap.

to enable them to purchase drawdown style projects

which will provide a higher return, but will still be one

the commercial markets.

hundred per cent safe for them to invest in. And given

without risking their entire future. Otherwise we will If we can devise better access for individual pension-

be left with far too many pensioners who are below

the increase in the number of pensioners in the

Indeed the need for governments to make their

ers to infrastructure funds, we will give the govern-

the poverty line and who will ultimately require direct

country that is forecast for the next two decades, the

projects more attractive to pension funds is underlined

ment access to funds at a reasonable rate for

support from the taxpayer. Too many pensioners will

provision of such an investment is urgent.

by the fact that at a time when governments are

long-term projects. At the same time we will provide

spend the autumn of their life in financial misery.

desperate for investment opportunities with good

individual pensioners with the ability to grow their

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Income drawdown rule changes must be reversed // Stewart Reeder - Client Director - Exaxe The changes wrought by the current government to

in retirement of £5,700 per annum, most pensioners will not be capable of surviving without some

the income drawdown regulations, i.e. the restriction

government subsidy on top of the regular state

of the level of drawdown to 100% of the government

pension.

actuarial department annuity rates rather than the 120% that it was previously, has seriously affected the

Does it matter whether that subsidy is given in the

at-retirement market. The effect of this change has

form of a constant trickle throughout a person’s

been to sharply reduce the amount of drawdown

retirement or none is given for the first few years and

products currently being sold; income drawdown

then a higher amount is given later? Either way, the

products have slumped in 2011 to 60% of the level

taxpayer has to support the pensioner.

they were in 2010.

If pension pots are given a chance to grow during

The pity of it is that income drawdown can often be a

retirement, then there is an chance for the markets to

more suitable product than standard annuities for

come to the rescue of the pensioner by allowing the

many pensioners. The fact that annuity rates are so

pots to grow in retirement and therefore providing a

low means that there is a strong argument for

higher benefit to the retiree, delaying the point at

deferring annuity purchase until a later date,

which the taxpayer must step in or perhaps prevent-

particularly as the stock market may well be in for a rise due to the flood of auto-enrolled pension money that will increase the demand for equities over the next decade, thus pushing up prices. Rising stock market values could boost drawdown investments, allowing pensioners to drawdown just the gains and retain the capital for a later annuity purchase when annuity rates have risen, an

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ing it completely. occurrence which may come when the Bank of

drawdown product line when the market is

England finally finishes its quantitative easing

shrinking?

Income drawdown is a far better solution than an

programme and begins to unwind it.

annuity for almost all retirees. The government must The primary reason given for the restriction of

seriously consider changing the rules back to make

In the meantime, by reducing the amounts that can

income drawdown rates to the 100% level is that the

the product more attractive to the 1.6 million workers

be taken from income drawdown products, the

government wishes to prevent pension pots

who will be hitting the retirement age over the next

government is stifling product innovation. Why

becoming exhausted. But given that the average

two years.

would providers invest money in the income

pension pot in the UK will deliver an annual pension

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Stewart Reeder promoted to Client Director Exaxe are delighted to announce the promotion of Stewart Reeder from Senior Client Account Manager to Client Director. Stewart Reeder joined Exaxe 12 years ago as Information Systems Manager and since then has grown with the company fulfilling several project and account management roles. Reeder also holds a BSc Hons IT Bachelor of Science Information Technology

and a MBA Masters in Business Administration.

Stewart to Client Director. Stewart has proved

am looking forward to

himself to be a valuable part of the team with his

assisting new and existing

Reeder’s new role as Client Director will be to

years of expertise built up during his tenure with

clients identify long term

engage with senior management, in new and

Exaxe and his excellent relationship skills. Stewart’s

strategic solutions that

existing accounts, to provide an unrivalled

ability to define business solutions whilst remaining

provide real value and

results-based service to our clients.

client focussed made him the ideal candidate for the

forging long term

Client Director role. ”

relationships.”

Philip Naughton, Executive Director Business Development at Exaxe says:

Reeder says “I am thrilled to be given this opportu-

“I am delighted to announce the promotion of

nity to show what I can deliver as a Client Director. I

The FSA needs to be wary of quick-fix solutions // Tom Murray - Head of Product Strategy - Exaxe to pay it on the drip over the lifetime of the policy

RDR project. They have released a report which

review it to see if it is truly built on solid foundations. If

than to have to pay it upfront.

seeks to reinstate commission for cash and equity

the FSA accept this approach, it will make the new

ISAs, stakeholder pensions and annuity purchases,

system even more complex and completely unman-

So when the FSA realised the truth of this, rather

fearing that the fee-only RDR regime would lead to

ageable.

than accept that their programme was flawed, they

these products being purchased without any advice.

began to search for ways around it: simplified advice

since the Retail Distribution Review was first mooted, voices in the industry have been pointing out its primary flaw; the effect of the regulation is to put advice on financial matters out of the reach of the majority of the population, who could not possibly afford the advice they needed. Of course commission is effectively paid for by the same people but for most individuals it is much easier

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It is clear that financial advice should be unbiased and

and basic advice. They failed to realise that people

This is yet another sticky plaster to fix a problem,

the only way to do that is to make it fee only. High

who are looking for advice want the benefit of all the

which has come about because the whole RDR

quality financial advice costs money and there is no

experience of the expert they are consulting – not

project has not been clearly thought through and

demand for a yellow-pack version. Having gone this

some cut-down version that may or may not fit their

this solution could end up causing more problems

far, the FSA needs to keep going and implement the

needs. All these attempts came to nothing, primarily

than it solves. For example, what happens if the IFA

new regime. Once it is up and running, we can see

because the concept of simplified advice is

realises that the best advice he can give the

where the advice gaps are and devise new ways of

fundamentally flawed – (see earlier blog post on

individual is to buy a more complex product that

giving those excluded access to it.

www.exaxe.com/blog on this topic – ‘The

should be under the fee regime? Does he or she

Conundrum of Simplified Advice’).

keep going and recommend one of the ‘commission’

Knee jerk reactions will only make things worse. The

products or does he tell the individual that they

FSA took a very high-handed approach from the start

Now the wheel has turned full circle and it appears

need to buy the more complex product and then hit

and refused to listen to the industry. They will just

that the FSA are coming under pressure from a

them with the full fee for the advice?

have to take the consequences of their own actions

group of industry experts, including the Association

and try to learn from it.

of British Insurers (ABI) and the Association of

Once again people are attempting to prop up the

Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) to backtrack on the

crumbling structure rather than stand back and

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Good news at last on longevity // Kathryn Desmond - Business Development Manager - Exaxe Crack open the champagne! At last we have a reason

showed life expectancy increasing at a faster rate than

On the downside for those looking for a longer

Before we get too carried away, there remains the

for celebration. The latest figures from the Office of

healthy life expectancy, leaving us with the rather

retirement, these figures also support the argument

issue of private pension savings. The fact remains that

National Statistics (ONS) bring some good news for

dismal prospect of having a longer life but spending

for a later retirement age, as it appears that we all will

most of us do not have enough saved for our

those growing old. Britons are living longer. And not

more of it ill.

be able to remain active in the workforce for longer

retirement and if we are going to live longer and be

than was originally expected.

healthy for more of it, then we’re likely to want to have

only are they living longer, but their healthy life expectancy is increasing as well.

a higher income level to make use of that fact.

If backed up by other surveys, this news will also reduce some of the pressure on long-term care

However, given the changes in the worker to retiree

The latest study carried out by the ONS shows that

planning, as it appears we will be able to look after

ratio that is forecast for the mid-century and the Office

For all our sakes, we better hope that auto-enrolment

between 2009 and 2012, the life expectancy of the

ourselves for longer without requiring outside

for Budget Responsibility’s recent prediction that it

works to deliver better pensions or there’ll be a lot of

average Briton has increased by 0.9 years, from 77.2

assistance. This will help the Treasury reduce the

will take until 2061 to return the UK’s debt/GDP ratio

fit pensioners about without the means to enjoy their

years to 78.1 years. But the number of healthy years

amount they have to set aside to implement the

back to where it was in 2007, perhaps resisting later

retirement. Perhaps we should restrict the celebra-

that a Briton can expect has increased by 2.1 years

Dilnot report, which recommended putting a cap on

retirement was always going to be futile. There is

tions and just have one glass of champagne until we

from 61.5 years to 63.6 years in the same period.

the amount people have to spend for their long-term

never going to be enough workers to support the

see how that works out.

care with the government picking up the tab for the rest.

amount of retirees that would be around in 2050 if we all retire at the current retirement age.

This is unexpectedly good news, as previous surveys

Pension reform - The gentleman is for turning // Fergal O’Doherty - Business Development Manager - Exaxe Thirty-two years ago Margaret Thatcher rose to address the Tory Party conference with the party in great turmoil. Her financial reforms were running into severe difficulties and the downturn that had been forecast as part of the reform was turning out to be much worse than everyone had originally expected. Having been elected on the basis that Labour had increased unemployment to over one million, unemployment had risen by then to over two million and the country was very restive. It was at this point that Mrs Thatcher made her famous quotation in response to calls for a policy U-Turn, which was ‘You turn if you want to – the Lady’s not for

turning”. Whether you agreed with her policies or not,

reform programme. Without a flat-rate pension and

We need statesmen, not politicians, at a time like this.

it was difficult not to admire her determination to

the removal of the majority of means-tested

People who are prepared to look at the long-term

proceed with them rather than buckle under the

programmes, it is difficult to see why anyone would

benefits to the country and risk short-term unpopular-

pressure for short-term popularity.

not opt-out of the new pension schemes that they are

ity to get it right. Pensions are the ultimate in

being put in via the auto-enrolment programme.

long-term projects and if we are to be in a sustainable

Fast-forward three decades and it is clear that the Unless means-tested benefits are drastically reduced,

But it requires the government to hold fast to its

ment to its policies. The Financial Times is reporting

the majority of lower-income workers would be worse

policy, withstanding the pressures from different

that the commitment to a flat-rate state pension is

off if they save for their own pension and so it is hard

interest groups in order to make that happen.

being reviewed on the personal orders of the Prime

to see how any employer or financial adviser could

Minister because of the risk of a backlash from those

justifiably advise them to save. If true, and the FT

Unfortunately, the current PM is far from earning

who would lose out.

generally has impeccable sources, this will make

himself the ‘iron’ epithet that was revelled in by Mrs

pension reform a dead duck and the Treasury will

Thatcher and the long-term welfare of the UKs

This policy forms a cornerstone of the whole pension

Why are we afraid of compulsory pensions? // Kathryn Desmond At the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) annual conference 2012, the pensions minister was quite adamant that compulsory savings could cause “an awful lot of trouble” if introduced to the UK and therefore the uneasy compromise of auto-enrolment was preferable. The example of Australia was not one that the UK could follow. The primary reason the minister gave was that there would be political difficulties with compulsion because many people would perceive it as a new tax.

position in 2050, then action needs to be taken now.

current government lacks the same level of commit-

futures of their own businesses are so insecure. The opt-out level from these firms is going to be shockingly high. The auto-enrolment process, with its complex rules about eligibility, enrolment and re-enrolment of the opt-outs, is a bureaucratic nightmare for small employers. It will have them praying for the simplicity of a Brussels directive.

pensioners could suffer as a result.

Transform your operational risk // Ralph Tucker Worried about managing your operational risk? Spreadsheets are set to be the FSA’s next target area and warning shots have already been fired concerning the management and security surrounding our industry’s use of workbooks. Exaxe can help you assess your company’s suitability for transformation. To have a free initial chat or to book a consultation with one of our calculation experts call us today +353 (0) 1 2999 100 or email us: info@exaxe.com.

That is why compulsion would have worked far better

Politicians should be there to solve political difficulties. The future pensions of UK employees are far too important to be jeopardised because the government lacks the ability or will to get their message across to the workforce. In times past, politicians have had to face the public with far worse scenarios, even to the point of telling the public that they would have to send their young men and women off to war. Without compulsion, the numbers saving will not be anywhere near as big as they could be. The auto-enrolment process is starting off with the very large employers who have big human resource departments that can sell the pensions idea to the staff and will probably be able to keep the number of opt-outs very low. Once it is the turn of the small and micro-employers (less than 5 employees), however, it will be a completely different story. In a recession these employers are already stretched just trying to keep their business afloat. They will have neither the time to be concerned about the long-term future of their employees, when the short-term

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for employers. It is not a tax but in terms of arrangement, it works exactly the same way as standard NI contributions. This would be far simpler for employers and would not distract them from their business. Compulsory pensions would have worked better for employees as they would not have been faced with a complex choice about saving but would have been forced to start saving for the future immediately. Compulsory pensions would have allowed a big bang approach, rather than the current 5½ year phasing in approach, permitting a more concentrated publicity campaign from the DWP to launch the whole project. Even pension providers, including NEST, would have benefited because they would have got far more members in their schemes from the beginning, giving them greater opportunities for cost control. The only group that compulsory pensions would have created difficulties for is the politicians, who would have had to work much harder to sell the concept. Guess whose interest ultimately triumphed?

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TechLife Exaxe Newsletter December 2012