The FT's Josephine Cumbo was named Social Media Influencer of the Year at the Women in Pensions Awards. She speaks to Stephanie Baxter about the power of Twitter.
What does winning the Social Media Influencer of the Year award mean to you?
I am very proud of winning this award as I firmly believe in the power of social media as a reporting tool. Over the past five years I have used Twitter extensively to expand the depth, and reach, of my reporting, and in the process have gained a wide, and varied, band of followers. Not only do I use the platform to break news and update stories, but also to report live events, such as parliamentary select committee hearings, and industry conferences.
I have also used social media to directly challenge authorities on issues of interest to my followers, and in doing so, to hold these bodies to account in a public way. Social media is now an indispensable weapon in my reporting armoury and it is gratifying that all those hours I have spent on Twitter have been acknowledged as being of value!
How important is the use of social media to create change and hold others to account over diversity issues, for example?
Prior to social media, much of the business of holding power to account as a newspaper-based journalist went unseen by the public as the questions they asked to get to the bottom of a story were not posed in a highly public way. But social media has fundamentally changed this dynamic, allowing journalists to directly question, and challenge, authority with a tweet. Organisations and authorities are very sensitive to this dynamic and the risk of reputational damage if they ignore, or do not respond adequately to, a challenge on social media. Journalists should use this tool to push for change in areas where there are clear injustices.
The Women in Pensions Awards Winners Series
What is your top tip for women looking to progress or start a career in the pensions industry?
My top tip would be to get on top of the technical side of pensions as much as you can as it will bring you respect. This means knowing the difference between a guaranteed minimum pension and a graduated retirement benefit, and understanding why the Pensions Act 1995 was important! Once you have this under your belt it will bring you confidence in a sector where the technical experts are still revered as Gods. But don't lose sight of the bigger picture, and what pensions mean to the ordinary saver. Don't be afraid to express your voice on ways to help ordinary savers reach their retirement goals. The people who stand out in this sector aren't afraid to make their opinions known so find your voice.
What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
Try to figure out what your particular interests or skills are and work these to your advantage. Being passionate about what you do, and having conviction and tenacity, will enrich your career and ensure you stand out from others.
To what extent do you think the pensions industry has got better at supporting and encouraging women?
When I started out two decades ago, the industry was very much dominated by men as this was a reflection of the wider financial services sector. Developing contacts, and your profile, was quite dependent on a lot of networking that took place in the evenings, which was not friendly to those with young families to get home to after work, or who had other responsibilities.
These days there are more women in senior positions who are more sensitive to the difficulties of juggling a career and parenthood and there is less pressure to spend evenings socialising for work. I find that social media has also provided women with a platform to speak out on issues that are core to them, such as flaws in pension policy that mean women will have poorer retirement outcomes than men. Women who are opinionated are setting a good, strong example for others to speak out on the gender inequalities in the pension system.
The Co-operative Group's Somerfield Pension Scheme has completed a buy-in with Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC), insuring the benefits of its pensioner members.
Caroline Rookes CBE and Michele Hirons-Wood have joined The Pension Superfund's board of trustees to focus on maintaining governance standards and safeguarding member benefits.
The first specialist independent firm advising pension schemes on bulk annuities or moving to a consolidator has been set up with ambitions to shake up the market.