David Dunn has spent almost his whole career in the world of pensions but the founder of website makingsenseofyour retirement.com did not get a good first impression.
“My first job was a terrible disappointment. It was in pension documentation at Guardian Royal Exchange. I envisaged it as the first step on a writing career. When I got there, it was all done on templates.”
But Dunn began to enjoy the subject matter and joined Crusader Insurance as a pension consultant two years later. He soon realised he was not cut out to be a salesman. “I should have known as, by nature, I am an introvert.”
He moved into admin, which set him on the path to management. After six years at Crusader, he joined Crown Life as senior manager of product development, which gave him his introduction to marketing. “It just felt like the right role for me. I enjoy understanding people’s behaviour.”
Dunn switched to private medical insurance, which was being touted as the next growth area, but when the predicted PMI boom did not materialised, he returned to pensions.
“I realised I had backed the wrong horse. The PMI market was not hitting its forecast and personal pensions were rising fast. I joined Prudential Holborn and really found my feet there.”
His six years at Prudential ended when Laurie Edmans, who had recruited Dunn at Crusader, asked Dunn to join him at NPI. “He is someone I admire tremendously and I could not resist the offer.”
Dunn stayed at NPI for nine years but left when ANP took over the business. Another ex-colleague was the reason behind his next move. “Someone I had worked with at Pru became managing director of Pru in Europe and lured me back. I loved it. I never got over the boyish glee of waking up and thinking, ’I am going to Madrid today’.”
But, after three years, Pru decided Europe was growing too slowly and closed most of the overseas operation and Dunn spent the next three years in various roles in the UK business. “I never felt as comfortable as I did in my previous roles at Pru, which had a small-company feel. Pru proper felt like an unwieldy monolith.”
His career then took another turn when he joined Fidelity’s Retirement Institute. “It is basically a thinktank. Each year, we would choose which subject we were going to focus on and look into the behavioural aspects through consumer research. This was the only opportunity I had ever had to be completely objective.”
The recession meant Fidelity never got a chance to capitalise on the opportunities the institute developed, so Dunn moved to Fidelity FundsNetwork. “I learned how technology could engage people, which was partly the driver for creating makesenseofyourretirement.com.”
The other driver behind the whitelabelling tool was what Dunn calls “a sense of injustice”.
“People who are well heeled get access to advice but you also have this under-current of people who cannot access advice because it is not economically viable for IFAs to service people with small pots. There is also the issue of a future where fewer people are prepared for retirement. We have had the definedbenefit to defined-contribution change, the erosion of state benefits and rising longevity. It looks increasingly like a one-way bet.
In simple terms, the service offers a way for product providers, pension schemes, IFAs and employee benefit consultants to aggregate all forms of pension and long-term savings to provide an accurate picture of income in retirement.
“I wanted all the information to be in one place, from what the Government provides, to equity in homes to the winter fuel allowance. I wanted it to be in language that consumers have half a chance of understanding. The industry uses words such as consolidation a lot. Who would ever use that word in real life?”
The website’s focus is on decumulation rather than accumulation. “Most providers have material that covers employees’ savings phase but there seemed to be a dearth of information on the 18 months leading up to retirement.”
Dunn is adamant that he is not trying to replace the IFA. “The website tries to cater for everyone. The bottom of each page directs users to an adviser if the solution sounds like something they are interested in.”
The service was launched in 2009 and take-up has so far been limited to Fidelity and Bluefin, which run schemes for 250,000 and 70,000 people respectively, but Dunn says the service should appeal to the smaller end of the market as well.
“It has not as yet been taken up by IFAs but, under the RDR, they might make use of it. They will begin to segment clients and start to offer restricted propositions and the website could come in there.”
Dunn did not always plan to do a web-based offering but says technology has changed the way the industry operates, particularly the way it has made getting information across so much easier.
He thinks although older people are becoming more comfortable using the internet, they are using it for research and going to advisers for ratification. “In terms of execution, people approaching retirement are still anxious about buying online.”
Dunn is a fan of Nest but suggests that if auto-enrolment does not have the desired effect, the next step has to be introduction of compulsory retirement saving.
We have become highly consumerist. It is the issue of money today or jam tomorrow and I cannot see that changing on its own. Auto-enrolment gives the Government the chance to say it is not in our nature to be prescriptive but if this does not work, we will have no choice but to try compulsion.”
He also hopes for movement on the open market option. “I am on the Pica management board and I am great believer in the Omo but I think we need to force people to shop around. Hopefully, this year we will see results.”
Dunn hopes 2012 will be the year his firm becomes more comprehensive by offering information on other retirement issues, not just retirement income.
“I want to make it completely holistic life planning. I cannot imagine a point where I think, I have done it all now.”
Born: London, 1955
Lives: Hove, East Sussex
Education: Brockley County Grammar School, London
Career history: 2009-present: Owner, makingsenseofyourretirement.com; 2006-09: director, Fidelity Retirement Institute; 2000-06: various senior roles at Prudential; 1991-2000: director of marketing and product development, NPI; 1986-91: pension product director, Prudential Holborn; 1982-86: senior manager (product development), Crown Life; 1976-82: group sales and service supervisor – pensions, Crusader Insurance; 1973-1975: technical officer (pensions), Guardian Royal Exchange
Likes: Sincerity, kindness and humility
Dislikes: Arrogance, duplicity and greed
Drives: Chrysler PT Cruiser
Book: Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor
Film: Father of the Bride
Album: Show by The Cure
Career ambition: To help people achieve the best standard of living they can during retirement
Life ambition: To see my daughter Millie grow up happy
If I wasn’t doing this, I would be… Busking with my guitar