Pension Perfection or Prehistoric Planning?

In my 30 years as a financial adviser one of the things I've found consistently annoying is the succession of Pensions Ministers with no detailed understanding of their subject matter. Steve Webb, whose plans to implement Dutch style collective pensions for employees are both outdated and ill conceived, is just the latest in a long line.

According to the Independent, "The plans pool savers' investments to create mega-funds. These aim to meet the future pension payouts of scheme members by spreading the investment risk across a variety of opportunities. There is also the hope that they could help cut back on expensive fund management commission charges, leaving more of savers' cash to grow in their pension pot."

Once again the charges tail is wagging the investment dog. More sinisterly, the proposed schemes will see employers effectively running schemes for their employees with all the risks of shortfalls that were inherent in final salary pension schemes, but with no requirement to make up any shortfall.

In fact this is what is currently happening in the Netherlands with shortfalls resulting in existing employees effectively funding retiring colleagues in the hope that future entrants will fund enough to pay for their retirements in turn.

The problem is that Webb's basic thinking is flawed. In reality risk control is down to correct diversification of assets rather than simply squeezing more members into a scheme. Whilst larger funds might produce some "economy of scale" reductions in fund charges they do so at the significant cost of loss of individual control.

Risk controlled funds have been around for a long time from managers such as SEI and Architas, offering no loss of control when accessing them. It's your pension, so why let someone else dictate what you can get from it?

I'm all for genuine saintly innovations in the pensions arena, but what I have no time for whatsoever is sinful attempts to reinvent the wheel by people who have no real understanding of the sector.

Robin Sainty APFS M.A. (Cantab)