Felicity Callard Profile picture
Mar 7, 2018 21 tweets 11 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Some more on the complex relationships between pension consultants & government pension reform. I'm putting these on to Twitter so that those more expert than I on this topic can use, reflect, comment (cc @FrenchShaun @ewanmcg @gailfdavies @CLIVEYB) #ucustrike #USSstrikes
I've been trying to follow Aon Hewitt (given that Universities UK have had a long relationship with Hewitt/Aon Hewitt (at least since 2007 universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-ana…). Hewitt was purchased by Aon in 2010 nytimes.com/2010/07/13/bus… #ucustrike #USSstrikes
How do we understand the relationship between policy change, consultancy behaviour -- and, crucially, the behaviour of Universities UK in relation to pensions? So I started looking at the work of parliamentary committees and where Aon Hewitt appears #ucustrikes #ussstrikes
On the Parliament UK website, a search under Aon Hewitt throws up c.25 items, a number of them relating to pensions beta.parliament.uk/search?q=aon+h… #ucustrikes #USStrikes
Back in December 2012, the Work & Pensions Select Committee took evidence from employers & pensions advisers as part of its inquiry into governance & best practice in workplace pensions. Kevin Wesbroom from Aon Hewitt was one of the witnesses parliament.uk/business/commi…
The parliamentary TV footage is available here (the 2nd panel, in which Aon Hewitt appears, starts at 10:38) parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/e5…
From 11:27:30 there is a really interesting discussion about risk-sharing and DC schemes in which there are extensive contributions from Aon Hewitt. We should remember that this is 2012, i.e. well before, and leading towards, the 2015 Pension Schemes Act.
In April 2012 (sorry for the glitch in chronological order), Aon Hewitt submit written evidence to the Work & Pensions Cttee, which begins as follows publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cm…
They also comment on the problems of DC schemes and call for the introduction of defined aspiration schemes publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cm…
All written evidence for "Governance & best practice in workplace pensions" is published in November 2012 parliament.uk/documents/Bind…. As well as Aon Hewitt, Mercer & Towers Watson make submissions (i.e. all big 3 pension consultancy firms uk.reuters.com/article/uk-bri…)
On 11 Feb 13, Work & Pensions Cttee publishes correspondence from Mr Peter Halligan, stating that those submitting evidence have made no attempt to quantify likely charges & expenses accruing to DC pensions. Halligan was employed by Aon Hewitt till Aug 12 publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cm…
The submission from Peter Halligan is long & complicated & it would be worth those with research expertise on pensions/financialization to examine it in detail publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cm…
On 21 October 14, The provisional programme of witnesses for House of Commons Public Bill Committee considering Pension Schemes Bill is announced. Both Aon Hewitt and Towers Watson are witnesses parliament.uk/business/news/…
The Oct 2014 committee in which Aon Hewitt (Martin Lowes) participates is available on Parliamentary TV here parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/44… (start 15:01:30) & in written form here: publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cm…
Aon also contributes written evidence to the Work & Pensions Committee inquiry into defined benefit pension schemes (DB schemes) which took place subsequent to the BHS collapse in 2016 publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cm…
Aon's written evidence notes that while the call for evidence focuses on DB schemes, 'the underlying financial picture – lower future expected returns – is potentially an even bigger issue for Defined Contribution (DC) schemes and their members.' data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidenc…
The consultation on "Defined benefit pension schemes: security and sustainability" closed last May & hasn't yet reported back. We don't know who responded to it. gov.uk/government/con…
As we were striking on Monday, @ft reported that 8 out of 10 top investment consultants/asset managers, including Aon Hewitt, have not backed a series of recent climate change initiatives, and emphasised how influential these consultants are ft.com/content/ba75b0…
At this point, a request for more suggestions of good research (& grey lit / blogs) that helps think through how consultants help *make* worlds -- in relation to government policies, societal norms, company behaviours, visions of the future, etc.
Only a few months ago, in a context that made suddenly clear to me how consultancies are here, there & everywhere in making worlds, I realised also how difficult it is to do particular kinds of research on this
Difficulties accessing any archival papers, getting behind protected firewalls, figuring out how to do interviews. Any #twitterstorians or #sociologists with suggestions of good work done on consultants? cc @alexnmold

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More from @felicitycallard

Oct 2, 2018
Given importance of HE sector "there may be a case for future governments to consider alternative options" (incl "state-backed guarantee" or "measures enabling more risk-taking"). Powerful piece from @JMariathasan on #USS DB debate post-#JEP ipe.com/analysis/blogs… #USSstrike 1/
Article argues that central problem lies in regulatory changes that transformed management of a DB pension scheme into "a risk management problem, not an investment one" 2/
Read 4 tweets
Sep 22, 2018
Thank you to @EricRoyalLybeck & all the other organisers in Exeter, as well as @ExeterUCU: Volunteer University Revisited was such a magical day. Gathering all of our energies for the months & years to come #YesVolUniCan 1/
Particularly magical to meet some people in the flesh for the first time -- incl. @thetroutpouts @lizmorrish @TheGraceK @sstroschein2 Mike Finn, Alison Wood, @ProfAlastair @ms_rhian @NoisyBits 2/
So many ideas for ways forward. So many kinds of expertise being bought to bear on what now, how, for universities as a community. Also so many testifying to violence, intimidation, threats to academic freedom – & of particular subjects being of course more exposed 3/3
Read 4 tweets
Sep 16, 2018
There's a bonanza of new FOI responses that give us a much better sense of the range of university responses to #UUK #USS consultations from Oct 2016 and Feb/March 2017. Picking through them it's fascinating to see which universities challenged the direction of travel 1/
e.g. Aberdeen: "Aon ... & UCU have indicated that it may be advantageous to consider other models. We are interested in the Trustees views as to whether there are alternative models that could result in a more considered outcome" whatdotheyknow.com/request/508696… cc @aberdeen_ucu 2/
e.g. LSE: "We note that the latest benefit changes were implemented less than 12 months ago. The School’s view is that it is too soon for further changes to be made." whatdotheyknow.com/request/509128… 3/
Read 6 tweets
Sep 16, 2018
So with the publication of the #JEP, the issue of UUK consultations with employer institutions is back big time. Both the famous Sept 2017 survey – and now the possibility, if JEP recommendations are taken up, of UUK reassessing employers' appetite for risk.

I'm worried. 1/
#JEP has emphasised the problems with how UUK framed the questions. What's really obvious if you look back Sept survey is that all the focus is on risk and on a *reduction to benefits*. And NOT on the potential to increase contributions. Or on amending the technical provisions 2/
You can see the structure of the questions here, in Nottingham's response (one of the institutions that wanted less risk): whatdotheyknow.com/request/440685… 3/
Read 18 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
2. #JEP has a lot to say about Test 1. Its sentence 'The view of the Panel is that Test 1 is not well understood outside of USS' is ... well ... certainly marvellously diplomatic.

Cf. and 6/
3. #JEP's discussion of #USS's & #UUK's 'differing perspectives' on the shift from Sept to Nov valuation shows just how murky the deliberations that resulted in this shift still are.

This remains a big issue, given #JEP proposal to reassess employers' atttude to risk (p. 45) 7/ Extract from p. 45 of JEP report
4. #JEP agrees w many of us that UUK's 'framing' of questions around risk in their consultations has serious consequences.

How can we be confident that any future assessment of employers' risk appetite by UUK shows an improvement in their use of social scientific methods? 🧐 8/
Read 13 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
After a few weeks away from Twitter, I'm back to think – alongside many others – about content & rhetoric of the #JEP.

And abt what we at @USSbriefs have been doing all summer w @OpenUPP2018 to encourage deliberations over #USS valuation to take place in public #USSstrike 1/
Many (incl. @NJSHardy @gailfdavies @DrJoGrady @etymologic @MikeOtsuka) have already provided cogent analyses of the #JEP report & its implications. So here I'll just going to pick out some of what has struck me most forcefully on a first read. #USSstrike 2/
1. There's a judicious use of rhetoric – particularly around 'confidence', '(mis)understanding' & 'communication'. This cleaves closely to that used by #UUK & Bill Galvin – whether that is deliberately so as to increase likelihood of acceptance by those parties, you can decide 3/
Read 5 tweets

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