UK- Former head of strategy at Swiss Re Alison O’Connell is to become the first director of the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), a new group established to research pensions. The institute is a result of a 1998 report by the government’s Pension Provisions Group that recommended the creation of an independent pensions research group. Sponsors include twenty city institutions and PPI is looking for research grants.

“PPI is now set up as an independent body to do research to academic levels. We have a totally independent hand to set the agenda and we hope our research will be taken up by the government,” says O’Connell. Initial emphasis will be on first pillar pensions and government policy towards state provision.

Among its aims are the development of the right framework for long term pensions planning and the provision of better information about planning for retirement. It also wants to extend and encourage research with other organisations.

Says PPI chairman Tom Ross: “Pensions affect everyone but too few people understand them and what is needed for adequate provision for retirement. We want to change that. The PPI will help to set out the real choices facing the UK pensions industry. We believe that better information and better understanding will lead to better provision for all.”

It has set an additional goal of improving the public’s understanding of pensions issues. Age Concern, a charity for the elderly, says it hopes the institute will help educate individuals and enable them to make more informed decisions in the future.

Says director general Gordon Lishman: “many people are confused about current pension provision and this can be a major disincentive to people saving for their retirement.”

O’Connell has held positions at consultants McKinsey and co. and William M Mercer and she is a fellow of the institute of actuaries.