As Richard Butcher becomes chair of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) he tells Mark Dunne about his plans for the organisation and how he intends to fight the corner of his members.
You have a white-collar boxing match in December. How is the training going? I’m having a ball. It’s great fun. The adrenalin and the endorphins just kick in. I was training this morning and sparring yesterday. I’m feeling stronger, feeling fitter and getting technically a bit better. I’m going to be in a ring with another bloke who will be trying to take my head off, so I want to make sure I have the advantage over him, if not in technique, then at least in fitness, strength and stamina. Why are you doing this? It is just for fun. Every year I set myself a challenge. This time last year I was climbing the Pyrenees. I slept at the height of Ben Nevis in a tent, we had a camp fire and the next day we climbed even higher. This year one of my challenges is to learn to box. When I get through that one, I will move onto the next challenge. So you like to push and challenge yourself. What drives you? I enjoy pushing myself physically. It is where I get my buzz from in the same way that some people get it from gambling or driving fast cars. I get a buzz from physical activity. Is this why you are taking on the role of chairing the PLSA? There is a huge amount of work to do to make a sustainable pension system. The PLSA has been central to putting forward good, robust evidence-based policy and regulatory argument to deliver a sustainable pension system that would give people better retirement incomes. I felt that I needed to take on that mantle. I have something to contribute, something to help. I have been involved with the PLSA for six or seven years now through the councils, most recently chairing the DC council. Chairing the association is the next step on from there. What are the responsibilities behind the title: Chair of the PLSA? We have council chairs who are going to be driving forward policy. The technical job of the chair of the association is to help the board set the strategic objective and then to drive the executives to deliver that strategic objective. So a large chunk of the role is business. It is revenue figures, risk management, that sort of thing. A core component part of our strategic objective is to set a policy direction and a long-term policy direction is towards sustainable pensions and lifetime savings that deliver good retirement income for all. Then we have to work with the policy teams to make sure that the policy augment that we develop is consistent with that. So you are moving into the centre of the many debates that are currently raging within the pensions industry? Absolutely. At the moment I’m DC council chair, so it is pretty much DC focused. There are some component parts that stretch across, but in the future, yeah, I’m going to be involved in all of it. As you have pointed out, I enjoy activity and energy and pushing myself. There is so much to do. Pension systems have come a long way in the past few years, in part because of the contribution made by the PLSA, but it is still not perfect, it is not optimal so we have a lot of work to do to make sure that we can deliver that optimal system.#
“Engage! Engage! Engage! Those are the three things that we have got to do.”Richard Butcher, PLSA