Change is inevitable, says Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the World Wide Web. So how can schemes stay relevant?

In many ways pension schemes are used to being disrupted. If anything, the pace of regulatory transformation we have seen in the last decade could easily be described as blistering.

But at the same time, the industry, for the most part, can hardly be seen to embrace change.

Innovation

You only need to look at the calls to be ‘left alone’ that precede every Budget, Autumn Statement or General Election.

And while regulatory disruption is not quite the same thing, it is interesting that regular research into pension scheme communications finds that most are not yet segmenting their data.

If the Amazon is the quick, evolving humans of industry – pensions are the dinosaurs.

It is interesting, therefore, that the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee delivered the first keynote at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s Investment Conference in Edinburgh.

Pensions are the dinosaurs”

But then, the man who could be described as the father of disruption might be just what the industry needs to wake it up to the importance of embracing change and constantly innovating.

With the democritisation of pensions and the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ – the institutional world is already starting to compete with the retail one for the first time.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the retail world is largely winning.

Berners-Lee talked about for key areas to watch: platforms, data, privacy and innovation (more broadly).

And wherever you look in the retail world you can see these ideas taking route. Examples are everywhere: whether it’s mobile banking (platforms), comparing products through an aggregator like CompareTheSupermarket (platforms and data) or companies like Nutmeg using improved data service to bring down investment charges (innovation).

No matter how resistant we are to innovation - we can’t stop it from happening”

This is something that the institutional pensions industry needs to take on board if it wants to stay relevant. Because with ultimate freedom and choice comes the threat that ‘members’, who far prefer being ‘consumers’ anyway, could go elsewhere.

Now is not the time to stick our collective head in the sand. Because more change is on the horizon.

One of Berners-Lee’s key messages is that no matter how resistant we are to innovation - we can’t stop it from happening.

He said: “Of all the views of the future we can hold, the only one we can’t entertain is that innovation is going to stop. We can’t philosophically believe that there will be no change.”

Change is coming people – get ready to embrace it!