As our flagship event returns in person for the first time since 2019, PLSA Chief Executive Julian Mund reflects, in his opening address, on the challenges pension funds and savers are facing today, the PLSA’s role in supporting our members through them, and the value of bringing people together to discuss the solutions to them.
Good morning and welcome to Liverpool – the first in-person PLSA Annual Conference since 2019 – Covid, train strikes … we’ve had lots of fingers crossed.
And to quote the face of the Pension Attention campaign, Big Zuu,
“I never thought when I was a young youth sitting in detention, that I’d be talking about pensions.”
I expect you didn’t either. But now we’re a little older, or a lot older, and we’re here at a conference to talk about pensions.
And hopefully the world outside is talking about their pensions a little bit more too.
Not as much as they might be talking about energy bills, the cost of food, the cost of cars and fuel, or the effects of the mini-Budget.
They might be saying that today’s pressures mean they could really do with some of the money they’re contributing now, not in 20, 30, 40 years.
But hopefully they will see that the contributions from their employers and tax relief, and the growth we’re here to deliver, make saving worth it.
And we also hope they realise that making those contributions now will help them afford the cost of living in the future.
Especially if they’re among the 35 million people whose providers are using the PLSA’s Retirement Living Standards, which give them the clearest picture you can get of what life will look like and how much it will cost.
Quoting Big Zuu again:
“Invest in yourself, later you will have the protection”
This year the PLSA has been helping our members improve pensions policy across a huge range of areas:
Adequacy, of course, is our priority issue and even more so with the cost of living crisis.
You’ll hear lots, about our work over the course of this week, and how we feel our government and our industry should grapple with the very clear need to prepare to raise contributions soon, very mindful of course that salaries are under so much pressure today.
Our work on small pots, alongside the Pensions Attention Campaign, another area where we have collaborated with the ABI, has made some good progress on the changes needed to solve another long-term issue for savers.
With input from our Local Authority members, we’ve published a report on the challenges facing the Local Government Pension Scheme, one of the biggest in the world, (that’s the scheme not the report!) and the opportunities it has in the future.
We’ve been as active as ever on ESG, with our voting guidelines, with our work on the ‘S’ in ESG, and with research into your net zero commitments. And we’ve shared insight on carbon emissions reporting from the first wave of schemes to go through it.
We’ve made your views heard on some important areas of regulation, such as the single code, TPR’s compliance and enforcement powers, the PPF’s surplus, investment in illiquids and changes to the rules on clearing over-the-counter derivatives,
We’ve brought you guidance to help you prepare for pensions dashboards, responded to consultations, contributed regularly on them to the pensions trade press, and made them a feature of this year’s conferences.
All this is why, I hope, 85% of our fund members told us we perform extremely well or very well on supporting you with regulatory policy.
Honestly, it’s a real challenge to keep you informed about everything we do – and one we are trying hard to improve. Just last month the PLSA’s management team were talking about how we increase our impact.
We’ve generated more than 150 pieces of national media coverage about our policy work this year, but so much more goes on outside of the public eye:
We were a witness before the Work and Pensions Select Committee about our adequacy work and briefed them on a wide range of pensions issues.
We’ve met the Pensions Minister many times, briefed the shadow pensions minister Matt Rodda, briefed Richard Holden MP for a private members bill on automatic enrolment,
We’ve chaired the joint industry forum on pensions.
And of course we’ve been working closely with TPR, and our members around the position of DB schemes, given the volatility in markets following the mini budget.
I hope the Bank’s interventions are extended beyond the 14 October, at least until the next fiscal event on 31 October. Or, if ended, additional measures are put in place to achieve market stability. Members of DB pension schemes should be reassured, despite the obvious operational challenges, that their pension benefits are safe; and scheme funding is strong.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Guy Opperman for his interest and energy during his record stint as Minister. We’re looking forward to working with Alex Burghart over the coming months and years, and I’m delighted Alex is joining us at Conference this week.
There is, as ever, a huge amount going on for the PLSA and our members.
And the day to day regulatory issues you deal with, as well as the financial challenges savers are grappling with, are part of a bigger, busier, even more complicated economic and geopolitical picture.
As well as many experts from PLSA members speaking here this week, we’ve got some leading voices from beyond our industry discussing what it means for us.
Hopefully it won’t be too depressing!
The PLSA’s mission is clear: as the voice of workplace pensions, we’re here to help everyone get a better income in retirement. Our role is to influence policymaking so that you operate in an environment where you find it easier to make that happen.
We give you the support and guidance you need to navigate the trickier bits of the landscape where you need it.
And, with your help and input, the PLSA provides leadership for the whole industry, representing your views to regulators, and government where change needs to happen.
Together, we can deliver on that simple mission.
That’s what we’re here to do this week. It’s what the PLSA and its members have been doing for 99 years – and you’ll here more about our centenary soon, which includes a programme we’re making with ITN.
Here’s another quote, this time from a PLSA member:
“The years of not going to the October conference have been wasted. They always brim with new ideas.”
New ideas are what we’re here for. New perspectives on the vast range of issues we deal with. New connections to share them with.
So, thank you for being here. Thank you to our speakers, sponsors and exhibitors for the couple of days of fantastic content we’re about to experience.
And thanks to the incredible PLSA team for bringing the industry together once again to discuss the challenges of today and the opportunities for the future.
So now to properly kick off this year’s conference, I’m very pleased to welcome our Chair, Emma Douglas, to the stage to talk about our major piece of strategic policy work for 2022.
Enjoy Conference and thank you.