Pensions: a quiet revolution
Employee Engagement Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, looks at how we can reinvent pension saving in the UK ready to meet the challenges of living longer and an ageing society.
The internet is 25 years old this year. I remember the early days of dial-up at one pence per minute with a modem that chirped at you while it connected via your landline. And here we are 25 years later, a gazillion bits of data silently flying by our ears every nano-second and the world in the palm of our hands thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, mobile phones and Google. Now that's progress.
Cast your imagination forward twenty five years. What do you see? I see older people - and lots of us because we're all living longer. Unless the birth rate picks up dramatically there will also be fewer younger people working and contributing taxes to pay for the State Pension. So society could look pretty financially imbalanced unless we take action. We need an internet style revolution for UK pensions.
We need an internet style revolution for UK pensions.
Well, that revolution has started and it's called automatic enrolment. It started in 2012 when big employers were the first to be required to provide a workplace pension for nearly all their employees. Since then over six million workers have been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, many of them for the first time. Over 110,000 employers have been through the process including 60,000 small and micro employees.
It's a quiet revolution. It won't get your groceries delivered to your door tomorrow in the one hour time slot of your choice but it will help make sure you can pay for them when you're retired. It's made possible in no small part by master trusts - the organisations which help employers get set with automatic enrolment and then administer and invest the pension savings of millions of individuals.
Between them three of the biggest master trusts alone support over 200,000 employers and more than 6.5 million savers. Naturally this means master trusts have a duty to look after these savers and employers – and those master trusts leading the way in automatic enrolment are very aware of this.
Master trusts are not only helping millions of savers and thousands of employees get started with automatic enrolment; but they are using their scale to ensure the service they provide is at a good price with good governance. Twelve of these master trusts have voluntarily achieved PQM Ready status. PQM Ready means the scheme has been assessed by the Pension Quality Mark (PQM – part of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association) as having good governance, low charges and clear member communications.
Back when the internet first started only a few people really understood the huge impact it could have... This quiet pensions revolution is not so different.
Back when the internet first started only a few people really understood the huge impact it could have and how it would affect our lives on a daily basis. But it has and that’s because developers and companies embraced it and used it to offer the public new ways to do things. This quiet pensions revolution is not so different.
Roll forward twenty five years and what will we see? Well, master trusts are critical to the success of automatic enrolment I hope and believe they can help automatic enrolment create a nation better prepared for retirement. We want to see a nation full of savers who are confident of their financial prospects in retirement, who feel they have a plan and some choice about when they stop work. If we stick to the plan for automatic enrolment and if governments resist the urge to tinker away at the pension saving system then we should be able to look at pensions in the UK in twenty five years’ time and say – now that’s progress.