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A conference with a fresh twist
15 September 2021

A conference with a fresh twist

Between finding brilliant speakers and interesting topics, our first conference with a fresh twist blossomed.

When we decided to run a full-day conference, we wanted to consider things differently. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel of organising conferences – they’re a mammoth task as it is! But, we wanted to bring a fresh approach, questioning whether we had the topics our NextGen and PMI members would be interested in, and the speakers to keep them switched on all day.

NextGen is all about showcasing the amazing people up-and-coming within the pensions and investment world, so we knew providing a platform for their voices was a no-brainer. What we truly believe is that there is a space for all voices, and that means those wise industry experts we’ve come to know and trust. So we wanted a good mixture of different people.

Then we began debating topics, considering the hot ones of the moment, like pensions Dashboard, or environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments. Those are definitely things we love to talk about. We could talk about ESG until the cows come home! But plenty of extremely qualified and talented professionals are covering these topics at the moment. So we wanted to provide something different, something unique.

Diversity in action

That richness in quality and ideas that diversity of thought can really bring was evident from the get-go!

Kicking off with the inspiring topic of encouraging new faces on decision-making boards combined the wisdom of Andy Cheseldine alongside the intelligent charm of Dana Day, the self-driven passion of Anna Darnley and the experience of Matt Sims. It made for a magic combo of insightful gems, you could see sparks igniting within each of them, bouncing off each other with increasing energy and enthusiasm. It was like watching the effectiveness of diverse thinking in action!

Within the second session, we broadened our speakers geographically all the way to Uganada, and outside the reach of pensions and investments and into the broader recruitment industry and social governance, diversity and policy spectrum. The topic of growing your career in a virtual world is one we’ve all come to face unexpectedly. It’s a shared challenge, regardless of background, experience, or any other differentiator or label – we’re really all in the same boat. So hearing the ways Simon Peter Mulima has faced similar challenges in the past, and comparing it to Emily Forsyth-Davies’ approach broadened the options. 

Dr Scarlett Brown and Martin Wigfield provided some real insider expertise. A huge takeaway here was the number of different things we can still do in a virtual world to build our careers – and there’s no one-size-fits-all – different strokes for different folks. and all!

We were thrilled about the third session of the day – the chance to share NextGen’s first research paper about recruiting with cognitive diversity in mind. Equally exciting were our brilliant speakers – NextGen committee members Hadassah Shulman, Lauren Peacock and Joe Craig. They presented some of the stories within the report, highlighting the ways recruitment processes can be inherently biased. Some were eye-opening, in particular the shocking difference ‘whitening’ a CV made to applicants’ chances. This trio took a tough, serious subject but managed to make it fun but respectful – true artists really!

The fourth topic of the day saw our most ‘pension-y’ subject of all the sessions – the small pots pension problem. NextGen’s Caroline Escott kept our speakers on track – it’s a subject they’re all deeply passionate about and could no doubt talk about all day. Alyshia Harrington-Clark is, undeniably, the pro when it comes to small pots. It was refreshing to hear her speak in such a simple way that even those without background knowledge of the issues could grasp the subject. Opening our eyes to the scale of the problem were Duncan Stevens and Tom Simmonds, who have spent years in various guises and organisations tackling the issues, and are now focusing on reuniting people with their lost pensions via Gretel.

We finished the day with a Dragon’s Den style pitch from the new kids on the block. Matt Dodds put the founders of Octopus Moneycoach, Guiide, Maji and Collegia, through their paces to find out what’s up-and-coming in the pensions and investments world and why it’s important. This session was all about diverse ideas. The problems they are hoping to solve are ultimately the same – help people make the most of their money so they can plan and use it well when they retire. But the diverse approach is what enriches our industry: solutions that provide advice and guidance, solutions that help people save and educate, solutions that keep savings in one place. It’s just a shame Matt didn’t have a pot of cash ready to dish out to Sahil Sethi, Eduardo Chazan, Adam Price and Kevin Hollister at the end!

Old world pensions, new world approach

During the day, watching the interactions between all our speakers – industry experts and newer faces – it was interesting to see the dynamics change.

We saw that the effectiveness of diversity isn’t necessarily about bringing one individual’s diverse views – it’s about that person’s way of thinking igniting something within someone else.

It’s changing the path of a debate. Leading a conversation down a different route to a different outcome, or at least exploring it. It’s livening things up a little.

When we threw out ‘the way these things are usually done’, and got the creative sparks flying, the ideas flowed. Organising this conference was hard work but such good fun. We had the freedom to:

  • choose topics that are different from the status quo
  • break away from the agenda of commercial business
  • select speakers for their talent and eloquence
  • open the debate to competition, and new organisations and ideas
  • base all of this on the wants and needs of our NextGen members.

People think of pensions as a slow-moving industry, but change comes fast when you share ideas, work together and push to move the conversation forward.

If we could predict what the topics will be next year, we wouldn’t be pushing hard enough or moving forward fast enough. But we do know there’ll be more than enough to talk about for another vibrant conference.


This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine September edition

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Last update: 15 September 2021

Emma Barry
Emma Barry
Head of Marketing

Governance Officer - In House Pension Scheme

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