This little piggy went to market: how often should you review your workplace pension provider?

I love pigs. What’s not to like? They seem cute and cuddly when we’re young, yet somehow I could park that fact on my journey to adulthood and become a great worshipper of all things pork related. I often wonder whether fans of Bolton Wanderers (nicknamed the Trotters) ever think of porky treasures when they sing ‘we love you Trotters, we do!’ I know I would.

Here are my four favourite pig-related things:

  1. This little piggy went to market: the stupendous finale of which is ‘and this little piggy went weee, weee, weee, all the way home’ while tickling my young children around ankle and calf. Always a veritable crowd pleaser.
  2. The film Babe: allowing me as an adult to relive my childish love of little squealers. I didn’t really enjoy Babe 2, but hey, apart from Toy Story, The Godfather and Star Wars, sequel movies are rarely as good as their predecessor.
  3. Homer Simpson’s ponderings: how can sausages, bacon, chops, gammon, pork scratchings, those square bits in special-fried rice and ham, all come from the same pink, curly-tailed legend?
  4. Angry Birds: spare a thought for the green pigs. Sat there innocently in their badly-constructed homes, waiting to be battered from upon high. Ooh, that reminds me, battered sausages…mmmm.

So how often should employers go to market, to review and potentially change their workplace pension provider? In the bad old days of commission, Smash & Grab Corporate Advisers Ltd might find a reason or three to do so every two years, such as:

  • their admin is awful (in my experience they all had the capacity to be anything ranging from great to awful on any day)
  • their funds are awful (ditto last comment)
  • their platform is awful (often uttered by advisers of a certain age who last saw a platform they understood on Noddy Holder’s feet)

Now that commission has gone, funnily enough, there seems to be less of an advisory appetite to get the sleeves rolled up quite so often. Objectively, I think there is a good reason to formally review the workplace pension provider and its proposition every five years. There should also be a light-touch review at every governance cycle (probably six monthly).

When there is a need to formally test the market, I am a great advocate of not just running a beauty parade, but also visiting the providers to meet the people actually running the show. During such a visit in 2015, the decision not to use one major provider was pretty much settled when the security guard nearly came to blows with a governance committee member, who had a blue badge parking need.

I am certain now of one very clear point. Moving away from a pension provider should never be done so on a whim. Employees tend to be hugely unsettled by it, unless the engagement and education plan is spot on. Done properly, it also requires a significant amount of input from employers (no matter what a predatory adviser might tell you).

So, as a general rule, this little piggy would be happier back at the farm.


This article was first published with REBA on 31 May 2017.



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