Most people may not be familiar with the name or the face but David Kingston has done us all a good service.
Mr. Kingston used to run Irish Life and was chairman of the stock exchange.
Speaking at a pensions conference, he was critical of the current pensions industry lack of focus on the needs of ordinary people. He said that the pensions industry is too powerful with too much ‘sell’ focus.
The Irish pensions industry operates in a bit of a time warp. Using a “leave this complicated stuff to us” approach, it rarely ever raises its head to question Government policy. It fails to act in the best interests of employees and does little to connect with effective communications that would encourage more people to join pension plans or at least understand the benefits of doing so.
As Mr. Kingston rightly points out, the industry has become obsessed with the wrong things; rules and technical issues with little or no focus on the individual.
When the punitive tax on private pensions was both extended and increased in the last Budget, the pensions industry barely registered an objection.
Looking from the outside in, it has all the hallmarks of a networking group, not a lobbying one and in an era where more consumers can conduct their own research, where 60% of buying cycle decisions are completed before they ever talk to a sales person, the pensions industry really has less work to do.
Putting individuals first is the new world. In the UK, Government and pensions experts there seem to have begun to address this need. Here in Ireland, as with mortgage arrears and personal insolvency, it will probably take a little longer for change to happen.