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Pension gurus come together in Nice

This week the pensions industry glitterati descended on Nice for the first Money Marketing Retirement Summit. Attendance at the Cannes Film Festival, just 20 minutes down the road, plummeted as screaming fans bundled into Nice to catch a glimpse of their favourite pensions guru.

With the sun beating down on the pebbled beach outside we all filed down the red carpet outside the hotel to talk about pensions.

Panellists at one debate tried to explain the failure of young people to save. Aegon’s head of pensions Stewart Ritchie OBE said it was because they only get “deferred gratification” from pensions when what they’re really looking for is immediate gratification.

Gareth Marr described it rather differently – coining the memorable phrase “tantric pensions” – much to the amusement of the audience.

While most of the panellists supported the concept of personal accounts and auto-enrolment – if not the practical details of the scheme – Bankhall chief executive Peter Mann dismissed it as a “fruitless exercise”.

He said: “There is a constant pursuit of a Nirvana that does not exist. It is a fruitless exercise trying to save when they do not have the money or the inclination. This is not a function of life offices or the Government. This is a fact of life.”

Panellists at a debate the following day expressed optimism about the A-Day changes and the huge opportunities it has created at the specialist, top end of the market. Inevitably, though, much frustration was vented about the Government’s dogmatic approach to Alternatively Secured Pensions and Pensions Term Assurance.

Closer to home the Government rejected a petition from Scottish Life head of pensions Steve Bee calling for it to scrap auto-enrolment into personal accounts unless it can guarantee people will be at least a pound better off than non savers for every pound saved into the scheme.

Needless to say the Government refused to provide such a guarantee and, in an act of political ventriloquism, used Which? to express its view that the industry should stop bleating on about means testing concerns because it will put people off saving into personal accounts.

Leaving aside the political cowardice of trying to hide behind Which?, isn’t this is a bit like a store manager telling a shop assistant not to warn customers about a possible mechanical fault in a hi-fi system because it might put them off buying it.

SG Wealth Management director Neil Shillito put it very succinctly. He said: “The FSA has spent a long time trying to stop the more unscrupulous advisers misselling products. Now they are telling advisers not to tell clients about the possible pitfalls of a Government sponsored savings scheme. It’s outrageous.”

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