Taxi Drivers, Tax and the Thin White Duke

5 April 2013, It’s been quite a week.  At 8.45am on Monday morning I arrived at White City for the second BBC women’s’ expert training day.  No pressure, just a full day training culminating in a pitch to some very senior programme commissioners and a crash course in interviewing, Question Time style.

On Tuesday we ran our monthly Mazars “Lunch and Learn” for internal audit staff, where we gave an update on the changes to FRS102 and IAS19, as well as sharing cakes for Comic Relief.  The guardian ran a nice piece on the BBC day, where I am quoted here http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/mar/18/bbc-expert-women-days-salford-glasgow-cardiff

On Tuesday evening I was treated to a trip to the Churchill Theatre in Bromley to see “Driving Miss Daisy”.  A lovely little play which was delivered well and pleasantly enough for me after a busy day.

Wednesday brought the budget and an early morning trip to the wilds of Essex to meet a team who have just done an MBO and inherited with it a large final salary pension scheme deficit.   Problem solved (well at least we now have a plan) I headed back to HQ for a meeting with the Mazars UK advisory board before a quick listen to the budget and an afternoon and evening of actuarial technical work (yes, it does happen!).

Regarding the budget, happily the chancellor let us pension people off, with no major changes to the UK pension framework and the scrapping of smoothed pension valuations, which would have given actuaries a lot of work for not much gain for our clients.

On Thursday I hosted a panel session for the PMI’s Spring Conference at Dexter House, London.  Our panel, made up of expert lawyer Alison Winstanley from Wragge, fellow actuary Richard Crowhurst from Hymans Robertson and tax specialist Chris Coulston from Deloitte, presented an alternative way of funding final salary scheme “black holes”.  This is by using security over an asset, such as property, rather than stumping up cash for the pension scheme trustees.   Star of the show though was undoubtedly Peter Nicholas from Anthony Hodges Consulting who gave us some stern warnings from the Australian compulsory pension regime, namely get de-accumulation right and engage the public in pension education as soon as possible.

Friday brought rain and an early morning trip to Somerset to see a team of two with 4 separate auto-enrolment dates to meet in the next 12 months.  More interesting though was the taxi driver who took me from Castle Cary train station and back.  I quote “I don’t know why my old employer keeps sending me paperwork because I stopped paying into their pension years ago.  I just put it in the bin”.  On our 30 minute journey I established that he had worked for a company with a large final salary scheme for 12 years.  They had been sending him a benefit statement and he had been binning it.  He thought he had no benefits as had stopped paying in.  On leaving I asked him to promise me he would read the next statement he got.  He did.  And for me this was my biggest achievement this week.

Back to London and an early evening visit to the Thin White Duke at the V&A museum.  We queued for over an hour as members, but it was worth it.  From Bromley to Berlin via being lost in space and culminating in a huge montage of live concerts two stories high, all in sennheiser quality headphones.  At 66 David Bowie is the ultimate “pensioner”, still working and no sign of stopping.  A great inspiration.