Renowned for his ability to turn pensions lectures into stand-up comedy, head of pensions strategy at Scottish Life, Steve Bee, this week delivered another chillingly humorous presentation at the Finance Directors' Forum.
Aboard the Arcadia in the English Channel, Bee claimed to have found himself in trouble with the police because of a sign on the exit slip road off the M25, which said ‘Use both lanes’.
So he did – by driving up the middle of the road.
‘It shows the trouble you can get into when you try to use too few words to explain something,’ he said. ‘So you’d think that the two million words of pensions statute law that have been written recently would have made everything crystal clear.’
Criticising ‘layer upon layer of simplicity’, his serious message to FDs was that many of them had to be able to offer stakeholder pensions to their employees by 8 October. He warned that pensions regulator Opra would levy huge fines against big companies that fall foul of the deadline and would make an example of them.
The ‘advice’ laws forbid companies from saying almost anything useful about the products they may ultimately offer their workers, but Bee cautioned that ‘decision trees’ available from the FSA to help employees decide if they should opt for the stakeholder pensions can be seriously misleading.
For example, in the case of a fully-funded occupational pension fund that the employer and employees no longer make contributions to, workers may be misled by the FSA forms into thinking that they should opt out of the cash-stuffed fund and go for a stakeholder pension instead.