The Next Generation Pensions Committee is on a mission to promote and encourage younger voices in the industry. Kim Kaveh looks at its key objectives
The Next Generation Pensions Committee (Next Gen) officially launched at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association's (PLSA) annual conference in Liverpool on 17 October. The committee - made up of around 20 figures from across the pensions globe - aims to provide support for young people entering the industry, as well as those reaching the next stage of their careers.
Its launch follows the unveiling of the PLSA's campaign on diversity entitled 'Breaking the mirror image' in 2017 - an initiative that draws together streams of activities which are designed to encourage wider, more diverse participation on trustee boards and the top levels in executive teams.
While gender diversity has been an obvious place to start, the industry is lacking younger representation to harness the power of cognitive diversity - the diversity of thought and opinion.
Next Gen argues that we urgently need a pensions industry that works for younger people. It further notes that diversity of thought, inclusive debate and fresh ideas are only possible if we hear from people across the adult age spectrum.
Next Gen committee chairman and Smart Pension head of proposition development Michael Watkins says the industry does not do enough to provide a platform for the next generation of voices to be heard.
"It doesn't give them opportunities to positively affect the future that they represent, even though it is clearly in our interest to do so. Through a collaboration of experience and new thinking, we end up being able to learn from our mistakes, which in turn prevents us from making them in the future."
Founder of Young Money Blog and agency, and Next Gen committee member Iona Bain adds that from historic failings and the shifting of pension goalposts to squeezed incomes and competing financial demands, young people have many reasons to relegate pensions to the back burner.
"Young representation is crucial if we are to solve these big conundrums with empathy, insight and intelligence. I firmly believe Next Gen could be a game-changer for pensions - and the prospects of millions of young people - if big hitters support our mission."
While younger representation is important across the pensions employment spectrum, one particular part of the sector that is particularly lacking younger talent is trusteeship.
Speaking at the PLSA's annual conference on 18 October, three Next Gen members highlighted the importance of encouraging boards to appoint younger pools of talent.
Accenture Retirement Savings Plan trustee Anna Darnley, who filled the role at the age of 24 said she would challenge the perception around "older people are a safer pair of hands".
She added that since she became a trustee, "the interest that we've had from younger demographics has shot up because we are starting to communicate with them using language they understand, and considering how to use different channels of communication in a way they want to be communicated with".
Darnley further noted that she does not think the youth are not interested in pensions.
"I think there is a challenge because pensions is foreign to people and they don't understand it and don't want to admit to not understanding. But I think if we have a dialogue in a way they can understand, then there is that engagement. I'm proof of that from what we've seen at Accenture."
PP interviewed Darnley in July along with two other young trustees under the age of 30 about the importance of having younger voices on boards.
Also speaking at the PLSA session, HSBC global head of corporate sector and client strategy Alison Hatcher argued that the industry should be asking younger people to apply for trusteeship.
"It's not always about the wording you use when you ask people to apply, it's about interpretation of the wording. Also, it's not just about younger people, it's about personality too. Younger people don't think they're good enough and for whatever reason the industry needs to give them encouragement."
Hatcher added that a lot of the skillsets of younger people are being slightly overlooked.
"It's not a criticism of the industry, but the Next Gen committee is trying to build awareness of this. We want to learn from the older generation to make sure skillsets are passed down so we can take the industry through these changes and come out the other side. I would encourage getting involved."
In support of recognising the talents of younger people in the industry, PP has launched its inaugural Rising Star Awards. To nominate yourself and your peers, click here.
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