Fresh ideas at NAPF

Four of the heaviest hitters in the
UK’s pension establishment put in
an appearance at the National Association
of Pension Funds’ annual conference
in Manchester in May: David
Blunkett, Paul Myners, Adair Turner
and Robin Ellison.
Eagerly awaited was Blunkett, who
was making his first speech as Pensions
Secretary. A feature of the meeting was
his call for a cross-party and popular
consensus to find a long-term solution
to the pension crisis.
Blunkett said : “We are in this
together. It is not between the industry
and the government.” He stressed the
importance of getting the message
across and finding a common long-lasting
solution. “I am prepared to do that
if my political opponents are prepared
as well,” he told delegates.
As well as working in the political
arena, Blunkett said he would communicate
with the country by reaching out
to people and win confidence.
He also said that there would be a
“joint seminar” with Pension Commission
chairman Adair Turner in June to
give a “sense of the direction we are
This would give people a perception
of the progress made before the Pension
Commission’s final report, due
later in the year. The report should not
come “as something out of the blue”,
he said.
Another big name to speak at the
conference was Paul Myners. He told
delegates that the government should
require institutional investors’ voting
to be “a matter of public record”. He
stressed the importance of transparency
and effective communication
with scheme members.
And he encouraged trustees to make
their votes count at annual general
meetings and making their voting public.
“It is your share and you must
ensure that your votes are according_
to your wishes and best interest,” he
said, adding institutional investors
needed to “push themselves harder to
be more transparent”.
Adair Turner, the chairman of the
Pensions Commission, said that
almost all the new information gathered
since the commission’s first
report last October has confirmed that
the existing system “is not fit for purpose”.
He told the NAPF meeting that if
his committee had to write the report
again it would be more categorical.
“The inequalities of provision which
we described in the first report are
becoming still more striking,” he told
Turner said the commission has been
“supplementing, deepening and
checking” its analysis of the current situation
as well as considering what new
policies may be needed. The committee
is to deliver its recommendations
by November 30.
“The steady flow of private sector
defined benefit scheme closure is continuing,”
albeit at a slower pace, he
said. “As a result, the most dynamic
element of private pension saving is
focused on the past not the future.”
There was no indication of a take-off
in pension saving or participation – nor
signs that personal pensions are growing
to counterbalance a declining
employer role.
“These factors together imply that the
aim of successive UK governments,
Labour and Conservative, to shift the
balance of pension provision from the
state to the private sector, is simply not
being achieved, and will not be
achieved on unchanged policies,”
Turner said.
“The question, therefore, is no longer
what is the situation, but what should
we do about it.”
He stressed the need for a coherent
pension policy, rather then relying on
the “muddle through” option highlighted
by the commission report, to
tackle what the commission is reluctant
to label the “savings gap”.
Robin Ellison, incoming chairman of
the association, said that in the future
the NAPF could turn into a federation
including different interest groups like
defined benefit schemes. “I am not
sure we are structured to give members
the right services,” Ellison said. “I don’t
think we are broad enough.” He told
IPE that the NAPF could open to other
“We may have separate interest
groups: small schemes, big schemes,
defined contribution schemes,” he
said, adding that any innovation would
first be considered by members.
Ellison, also commented on the
impact the launch of the new Pensions
Regulator. He said the NAPF will tackle
the changes brought by new legislation
and suggested the setting up of a “kind
of protection society” to balance the
new regulator’s powers.
“This is not an attack on the regulator,”
he said. “We need to explore
whether we have the products and services
to meet the demands of people
who are now regulated. We have never
been regulated.”

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