When it comes to technology - there’s a lot that pensions can learn from the Olympics, finds Tom Hibbard, business development, KAS BANK

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The first Olympics I have a real memory of being excited by was Atlanta ’96. Johnson broke the 200m & 400m world and Olympic records, Carl Lewis got his 9th track and field medal and Team GB didn’t even really hit the headlines. Despite my general excitement at the time, I can’t tell you much about what went on beyond that.

Sport

20 years on, the London 2012 legacy means we’re all completely submerged in Olympic fever this time round. Team GB are flying and we constantly wait with baited breath for that next alert to say we’ve upped the medal tally again. This engaged excitement has made me reflect a bit on how differently we consume information about the Games now compared to how we did back in ’96.

In ’96, we were at the mercy of the BBC’s TV schedule and desperately trying to set up the video recorder so we didn’t miss the events that were on at unsociable hours (and trying to find a blank VHS tape to record it on!). We watched the news to get our round-up of what had happened in the day and generally it all seemed a bit distant.

When it comes to reporting data to trustee boards we’re stuck in Atlanta ’96”

Now, we can choose between any one of a number of live streams showing whichever sport floats our boat at that point in time. Not only can we watch whatever sport is on right this second, we can also use catch-up, rewind live TV and get instant alerts via a multitude of apps and social media channels.

We’re not stuck at home waiting for a delayed report on what’s going on; we are in the know if and when we want to be.

Anyway, as any of my friends could tell you, I could ramble on about sport until the end of time, but what has any of this got to do with pensions? Well, what struck me, as I was considering this remarkable change in the way we interact with the Olympic Games, was that we haven’t replicated this technological advancement in information provision so effectively in our own industry. When it comes to reporting data and information to trustee boards, we’re still stuck back in Atlanta ’96.

Why settle for VHS playback when push notifications are here?”

Markets move constantly and at a far greater speed than it is possible to accurately keep up with without help from technology. Liabilities are constantly reacting to rate changes around the globe and yet, trustee board meetings quite often still rely on paper reports containing data from up to 3 months prior to the meeting date.

A recent Aon survey stated that 70% of board trustees agreed that the decision-making process was slow and from our own conversations, one of the causes for this is that the scheme data up for discussion at a trustee meeting can be out-of-date, inaccurate, inconsistent or any combination of the three.

With the Olympics, it is interactive, the information is at our fingertips, we’re invested and included and as a result we are better informed and far more interested. Is there something we could learn from this?

My point is this; why settle for VHS playback when push notifications are here? The technology exists to deliver accurate, up-to-date and consistent data for scheme trustees. It is no secret that the industry as a whole is struggling to deal with the current economic environment, so why would we not give ourselves the best chance of navigating it successfully with sound data and informed decision-making?

Tom Hibbard, business development, KAS BANK