Acorns and Oak trees May 7, 2019 Matt Dodds divulges how a career in pensions is like an acorn. Plant it carefully and nurture it… How do we make the pensions industry a more attractive and alluring place to carve out a career? How do we shed the boring perception of our industry? I’ve reached a happy place where I’m quite open about how I “fell into pensions” – it helps that lots of my peers did too. It’s interesting, engaging and a rewarding place to work. I’m not breaking new ground here, but there is still so much to do to convince people that ours is a sector with real prospects, ripe for disruption and where you can make a difference to millions of people’s futures. What a great place for bright and intelligent people to establish a career with all the right ingredients. Change is coming In the last twelve months, there’s been a welcome and obvious shift in industry recognition and adoption of change. Whether in governance, legislation, general accepted practice or thought – the focus is on the future, sustainability and succession plans. And I’ve tried to do my bit – with the help of many colleagues, contacts and like-minded people. At the start of year, I volunteered to work with my enormously talented colleague Mia Daldry in researching and establishing the foundations of the first graduate intake programme at ITM. As you’d expect, I couldn’t be more excited about our own future, and the chance to share that with an ambitious and driven next generation of talent is just too good to miss out on. I can’t wait to share knowledge, ideas and plans with our graduates, and I know that their skills, intellect and challenges will drive us forward. I hope our new recruits embrace the chance to make a name for themselves in an industry crying out for fresh ideas and thinking. Fresh thinking Another fresh idea I’m so pleased to be involved with is that we are working with the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) on their first essay-writing competition. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support for this initiative. When I fell into pensions, the PMI were the benchmark that I was pointed towards, to improve my knowledge and to gain recognised accreditation within the industry. Lots has changed since then, but some things haven’t, and the PMI remain the standard for accreditation for good reason. I can’t wait to read the entries to our question for 2019, which is credit to the genius of Karen Quinn, although I’m slightly concerned as to how we’re going to top this in 2020 and beyond –that’s a great thing to worry about. Huge credit should go to Professional Pensions for the Rising Stars initiative, and to Jonathan Stapleton and the team for hosting one of the more interesting awards ceremonies I’ve attended. It was great to take a group of ITM’s own future stars along and show them that talent and hard-work are being properly recognised in our industry. NextGen I couldn’t share these thoughts without mentioning NextGen Pensions and the work that we are doing to promote and embrace diversity within the industry. Michael Watkins has rightly taken some (read: practically all) of the plaudits for this and being named Rising Star of the Year is testament to his hard work. Being part of a group of ambitious NextGeners, so driven and determined to make a positive change in our industry has really energised me. We have formed independent sub-committees focused on training and mentoring, research, media and communications and on ensuring that membership provides real value for everyone. We have significant interest from employers who want to offer NextGen benefits to their people, and our next event is close to being announced – offering further opportunities for those starting out and stepping up to grow and fulfil their potential. Before I forget… So – change is happening, there’s lots to be proud of already. Keep the momentum goingKeep pensions positive. Stop apologising for being involved. Share good news –not just the bad.Deliver better outcomes for members. If we do these things then we all have something to be proud of, and pride and positivity are infectious. Can we make the pensions industry a more attractive and alluring place to carve out a career? Absolutely – but the key word is ‘we’ – no one will do it for us.