What happened with pensions in 2021?

Although some of the traditional technical sessions are still included on conference agendas, there continues to be a greater focus on the more practical issues of running an advice business.

Technology is of course a major theme, along with behavioural management and the self-limiting nature of advising ageing clients.

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Retirement planning is becoming less focused on pensions and more about creating tax-efficient and sustainable cash flow, using the full range of a client’s savings and investments.

Environmental, social and governance factors were another continuing theme. The FCA has updated its ESG strategy, making it clear that ESG must be a key consideration in the design and management of investments.

In practice, this means that every client should now receive a more ESG-friendly strategy, even those without specific preferences.

The autumn Budget was also light on pensions, but it did confirm top-up payments for those in net pay schemes and a change to the Scheme Pays deadline.

More controversially, the government confirmed a "temporary change" to the triple-lock rules, which was probably justified, but this increases the chances of a more permanent change in future. 

And so, back to Covid. The gradual return to face-to-face meetings has come to an abrupt halt in the face of the Omicron variant and we are once more reliant on Zoom etc for client interaction.

This is undoubtedly a disappointment, but it is probably worth remembering that video meetings do have their advantages. They free up travel time, save costs and contribute positively to our ESG score. 

I still hope for a return to more normal working in 2022, but cannot regret some of the changes forced on us in 2020-21. 

Fiona Tait is technical director at Intelligent Pensions