I know that Alan and I can at least agree that we both want good outcomes for pension savers, although it is clear that we disagree on the best approach to achieve this.
The first point I have to make is about advice. The new resource encourages people to seek advice, and signposts people to where they can get this advice. It sits within the Retirement Choices Code, a compulsory Code which covers ABI members, which has as its purpose helping people understand the alternatives open to them at retirement and motivating them to take action as a result.
The second point relates to which firms appear in the tables. By definition, since this is part of the ABI Code, we can only insist on ABI members participating. It is also aimed at improving the level of information for customers of member firms who have maturing pension plans. Given that Hodge Life are a specialist annuity provider offering rates on the open market, their rates are already available on, for example, the Money Advice Service site.
The structure and purpose of our tables, far from confusing consumers, were well understood by those who participated in our pre-launch testing. They got the message that this was about exploring options, and seeing how their pension provider compared with other rates on offer.
The competition point Alan makes in his second bullet is exactly the reason we are using 12 scenarios and historic data. I accept it means the rates are no longer available, but the price positioning of the various participating firms will still be relevant, and the regular updates will ensure it remains so.
We welcome all feedback on this initiative, critical and supportive, and will look to improve this first public version of our new resource. But I believe it is an important further step in creating an effective market for customers approaching retirement. And I also believe that the time has come for a more fundamental review of how wider solutions to the retirement challenge can be found in a world of low interest rates and increasing life expectancy. The industry would be enthusiastic participants in such a debate.
Otto Thoresen is director general of the Association of British Insurers.