Osborne's pension adviser wants Facebook Lisas

Osborne's pension adviser wants Facebook Lisas

The architect of the Lifetime Isa has said he would like to see tech and internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple offering the new investment product.

Pensions expert Michael Johnson, whose ideas heavily influenced former chancellor George Osborne, told FTAdviser such companies were ideally positioned to distribute a product specifically designed for millennials.

His comments come weeks before the Lifetime Isa is officially launched.

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The product allows people under 40 to start saving up to £4,000 a year plus a 25 per cent government bonus, to go towards either a first home or retirement. 

While providers will be free to offer the product from 6 April, very few have committed to doing so.

Mr Johnson, who is an independent research fellow at the free-market British policy think tank the Centre for Policy Studies, said the industry's wariness of the Lifetime Isa was "extraordinary" given its "warm welcome" from millennials.

He said the lack of providers could mean Hargreaves Lansdown - which will have a Lisa ready by 6 April - could end up with as many as half a million customers by the end of the year.

Only The Share Centre has also committed to having a Lisa ready by 6 April.

Mr Johnson said: “What I am desperately keen to see now is a Google or a Microsoft or a Facebook or an Apple offer a Lifetime Isa.

“We’ve got Apple Pay. Apple has already made a foray into financial." 

He said the challenge of encouraging people to take up the Lisa was "distributional" rather than technical. He said if established investment companies were unwilling to offer the Lisa, there was no reason why unconventional providers should not do so.

“I’m not concerned about the wherewithal of the incumbents," he said. 

"I’m concerned about catalysing a broad-based savings culture, particularly amongst the next generation, for whom Facebook and Google and Apple mean a lot, with whom they are related if not on a daily basis, then on an hourly basis."

Mr Johnson told FTAdviser he was still hopeful his vision of a retirement savings system based on Isas rather than pensions would still become a reality, despite the departure of George Osborne from Treasury, and the overwhelming opposition from the industry.

Neil Lovatt, commercial director of Isa provider Scottish Friendly, shared Mr Johnson's vision.

"As soon as you allow employer contributions, the system changes overnight," he said, adding: "The reason the pension world is worried is because they are going to have to go away and build new systems." 

Scottish Friendly announced last week that it would offer a Lisa by the end of the coming tax year.

But Ruban Sanmuganathan, a chartered financial planner at Plutus Wealth Management, was sceptical of the idea of having companies like Apple offering investment products.

"I don't think a company that's not an investment company should offer investments. Stick to what they do best, which is make phones," he said.