Being part of the PLSA’s ‘feisty’ Policy Board can drive change | Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association

Being part of the PLSA’s ‘feisty’ Policy Board can drive change

30 November 2020

With places available on the Policy Board, PLSA Chair Richard Butcher, says those on the Board can help drive pension industry change.

With places available on the Policy Board, PLSA Chair Richard Butcher, says those on the Board can help drive pension industry change.

By Richard Butcher, PLSA Chair

Being part of the PLSA’s ‘feisty’ Policy Board can drive change

I’ve just noticed the PLSA is advertising for new members to join its Policy Board. That’s fantastic. What an opportunity. Maybe I should apply?

Truth is, I’m not allowed to. As Association Chair my role is to run the corporate board and we deliberately separated the two functions (corporate and policy) a couple of years ago. I do get to go along to many of the Policy Board meetings but only as an observer (My apologies Emma – our Policy Board Chair – as that hasn’t stopped me throwing in comments). 

The Policy Board is the principle policy organ of the PLSA. It decides on the policy agenda, commissions subgroups and working parties and has final sign off on all policy output unless it delegates. It roams across all our policy interest areas: DB, DC, local authority, master trust, contract based, investment, ESG, Value for Money and anything else that comes up. It is a hugely responsible function. 

Before I was Association Chair, I chaired one of the Policy Board’s predecessors – the DC Council and I had been there – or on its own predecessor; the Retirement Policy Council since 2010. Ten years of policy input. Blimey. 

But I’m a mere newbie compared to some of the other names dotted about the place. Although we refresh the formal councils and boards on a regular cycle, many of the people on the sub committees have been working hard for the Association for a much longer time. 

So why do we do it? I guess there are several reasons. 

First and foremost because it is really important. 

We know from long (very long) experience that the regulators and legislators don’t always get things right when they want to make changes. Our role is to critique their ideas and help improve them. Quite frankly, if we didn’t have this function some barking-mad ideas would be on the statutory or regulatory books by now. 

We all work in the industry every day and as a result we live and breathe the strengths and weaknesses of the live system. Our policy role allows us to point out the flaws as they become apparent – helping to improve outcomes for member or industry efficiency.   

As an extension of this, we also have lots of bright ideas for how to radically improve things (think, for example, of the PQM, Retirement Living Standards or our recently-published Changing Climate report). Our policy role allows us to proactively develop and argue for new ideas.

Secondly, it’s really rewarding. I and my colleagues from around the various committees and councils I have sat on over the years can point at changes in the law or regulation we have personally argued for. We can point at hugely worthwhile industry initiatives we have played a part in. We can point at guides, guidance or other output that we have helped to create. We can point at the success of our conferences and validly claim to be a part of them. 

I remember years ago being in two minds about a bit of policy output and I, a little naively, asked “what does the NAPF think about this?” (meaning the executive team). One of my feistier colleagues immediately retorted “You are the NAPF!”

Policy Board membership gives you the chance to make a genuine actual difference. 

Thirdly, it’s great fun. Now I’ll accept I’m a bit of a geek and an argumentative geek at that (one colleague referred to me as “gobby”) but I love the cut and thrust of the policy argument. Here is a subject I know pretty well (although you can always know more), that I care about and here are a bunch of similar people willing to debate with me. I can’t do that at home. 

And they are great people. Despite the feistiness, the occasional well-meant insult or the genuine and sometimes difficult to reconcile differences of opinion, we spend a lot of time smiling and laughing. We all want the same thing – to help everyone achieve a better retirement income. That common ground brings us together. I have friends I would never have had had I not gotten involved all those years ago.  

So, I can’t apply. But then, I’m only chair for another year. So maybe after that…

Find out how to apply for a place on the PLSA's Policy Board.

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