July was an exciting month. I appeared twice on Times Radio’s early breakfast show. In my debut we talked about the impact of Rishi Sunak’s summer statement on companies’ ability to retain staff. The second was an in-depth discussion of the impact of the covid crisis on the long-term prospects for offices. A post outlined Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s thoughts on how the pandemic could help the world better prepare for climate change. I achieved a long-held ambition to bring clarity to the uninitiated by explaining pensions from first principles with the publication of the first in a series of posts.

Summer statement

On 10th July I took part in Calum Macdonald’s early breakfast show on Times Radio. We digested the implications of the policies unveiled by Rishi Sunak in his summer statement. The Chancellor confirmed the furlough scheme would end on 31st October. He announced the job retention bonus which aims to encourage companies to bring employees back to work by paying a £1,000 bonus for every worker who remains employed from November to January. We analysed whether this bonus would be enough given employers would have to pay three months of wages as well as dealing with rising costs and falling revenues.

Preparing for climate change

At a NN Investment Partners’ Upside Down event, Joseph Stiglitz said the pandemic had underlined the importance of preparing for unlikely risks as well as providing important lessons on how the world should tackle climate change. The high levels of government intervention required to protect economies from the long-term impact of the crisis was an opportunity for citizens to demand a greener future. Better metrics which capture more than simple financial measures would help companies and investors to prepare for the future.

The future of the office

In my second appearance on Times Radio’s early breakfast show on 21st July we discussed the impact of the covid crisis on the future of the office. I shared the difficulties created by social distancing. Lifts are a key challenge to getting workers back into high rises. One company with offices on 40th to 45th floors of a tower calculated it would take five hours to get half its staff into work. Over the longer term, some estimate demand for office space could fall by 30% to 50% which will create significant challenges for pension schemes invested in property. This could radically reshape city centres with some buildings being repurposed for those times when people want to work together and excess space could be turned into residential space which includes home offices.

What is a pension?

For the uninitiated pensions are complex and often make people feel confused and overwhelmed. I published the first in a series of blog posts which aim to explain pensions from first principles. By outlining the interaction of policy, investment and regulation I want people to feel more comfortable about their long-term future. The first post looks at who pays our retirement benefits and takes a quick dive into the history of the UK’s universal state pension. It discusses the strength of Beveridge’s social insurance model and wonders why his vision has never been fully embraced. It also explains the recent simplification of state pension payments. The next post will explain the history of UK occupational pensions.

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