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What's next for Punter Southall?

To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated.

Why do I say this? Recent statements from two of the biggest companies I founded, nurtured and eventually sold might have given the impression I was swapping the boardroom for a garden room.

I’ve recently stepped down from the boards of XPS, formerly Punter Southall Ltd, our actuarial division last year and River and Mercantile, which incorporated our institutional investment consultancy, P-Solve, after a merger and flotation in 2015.

Statements from both companies (both listed) said I had “retired” as a director. I know it can mean to withdraw, retreat or step back but in our sphere, it has a pretty firm definition: to conclude your working life.

And given that the nearly 40 years of my working life have been spent helping thousands of people do precisely that, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone, including those who have sent congratulations (there have been one or two), that I have yet to hang up my hat.

Punter Southall has been a force in pensions, investments and wealth management for the past three decades. We retain significant shares in the two core businesses that I mentioned but no longer directly operate them.

A fresh approach

We continue to buy and build companies which can offer a fresh approach. Punter Southall Aspire is exploring new ways to help people save into workplace pensions and other financial services besides, Guardian is exploiting new technology to disrupt the health insurance and protection sector.

CAMRADATA continues to help institutional investors assess asset manager performance while Punter Southall Analytics investigates mis-selling and uncovering new opportunities. We have also created the second-largest independent pension trustee company in the UK and continue to develop PSigma Investment Management and Punter Southall Financial Management.

So where does this leave us?

Put simply, our decades-long background in identifying opportunities to do things differently in pensions, investments and financial services is something we, and the companies blooming under us, value.

We can offer particular insight and knowledge to those embarking on their own new projects or ventures.

One critical element is that time and again, technology is heralded as a messianic game-changer.

Established in 1988

This is true in one sense. It was the advent of the PC that enabled us to set up Punter Southall in 1988 as we no longer had to have the resources - or space - for a mainframe computer.

Given that most of us started out annotating spreadsheets with a pencil, that might not seem that revolutionary but as the PC has given way to being digitally mobile and almost virtual, one aspect has remained constant.

Knowing how to apply a technological advance to an age-old problem or insoluble challenge is key. Marrying know-how to make sense of the here’s-what’s-new-now is still very much in demand.

What's next for Punter Southall

Which brings me back to retirement. This sector remains at the heart of British commercial and, indeed, national life. Pensions are viewed as a combination of the essential, misunderstood, much-maligned and, yet, retain something of an optimistic glow as they represent what’s still seen as the best plan for a distant future.

We are in a position to help companies navigate this landscape and its distinctive risks and features. True, I am knocking on to be a sherpa but, as with much else in life, there’s no substitute for experience in leadership and decision-making.

And when you enjoy what you do, are fortunate enough to be successful and have the track record to prove it, the question of - what next - is a bit easier to answer.

In these days of flexible working and the erosion of cliff-edge retirement, why not carry on?

Given the volume of start-ups in the UK and, particularly, London, I think we’ll be as busy as ever...

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"Put simply, our decades-long background in identifying opportunities to do things differently in pensions, investments and financial services is something we, and the companies blooming under us, value".

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After 40 years of experience in the pensions world, I'm sharing my insights.