You can tell that Rachel Vahey is passionate about pensions. In fact, not long into my sit down with the product technical manager at pensions platform Nucleus Financial she actually used the word “adore” to describe her ardour.
Immediately realising she might have overstepped the mark, she indicated that it is not a word she would use “in the pub” to describes how she loves her job, clarifying her view on the pensions sector.
“I think it’s great, I really enjoy it. It’s the fact that it’s so important to so many people’s lives, I love the way we’re developing,” she said.
Ms Vahey left her post as Aegon head of pensions development, along with Peter Williams who was charged with industry development, in January 2011 as part of a restructure at the insurance giant that had been designed to cut operating costs by 25 per cent. It must have been a particular blow after more than 13 years at the provider.
Unlike some, whose worries about paying the mortgage often leads to scrambling for a lesser position just to pay the bills, she took the braver step to branch out on her own, establishing herself as a gun-for-hire with Rachel Vahey Consulting, a ship she helmed for just over five years before the Nucleus position presented itself.
She thinks that being one's own boss adds to the skill set.
“The difference between [Aegon] and being self-employed was quite stark. You actually had to go out there to network and to contact people. It makes you a little more confident in what you do and makes you understand what value you have,” Ms Vahey said.
During her time as an independent consultant, she said, one bonus was that she got to look at “pensions from a theoretical point of view”, but that the “contact you had with the advisers told you that life is a little bit different to the theory".
She added: “I liked that contrast of having the theory on one side and the practice on the other.”
Nucleus describes itself as “an adviser-owned and driven wrap platform providing general, Isa, pension, onshore and offshore bond accounts for investors”. To the layman, it allows advisers to contain a client's investments in a single, manageable online account.
She pointed out that the company is “forward looking” and “very spirited”.
It is a description that suits a new breed of company that is navigating waters that Ms Vahey sees as ever-evolving.
She said: “It just doesn’t feel like we’ve had a status quo; things just keep changing. We’ve gone through the Turner Commission and the Pensions Commission, we’ve been through 2006 and A-Day [pensions simplification], we’ve gone through automatic enrolment, we’ve gone through the Retail Distribution Review and then we get through to 2014 and the whole world was shaken up with the introduction of pensions freedom.”
It is not a situation she predicts will change soon; pension evolution will continue.