Means testing: the cuckoo in the NEST
Pull the lever on the one armed bandit of financial services policy this month and spinning into view on wheels one, two and three will be a neat little NEST.
National Employment Savings Trust, or NEST as it has been somewhat self-consciously coined, is the permanent name of the new national workplace pension scheme being launched in 2011, which PADA says is designed to meet the needs of low-to-moderate earners and their employers and which it promises will be a low cost, easy to use, online pension scheme.
As acronyms go it certainly is cosy, conjuring up as it does images of nest eggs and the lesser spotted savings culture that was once indigenous to the UK – before we became a nation of credit junkies, obviously.
The PADA website tells us that NEST’s name and logo were developed after an extensive programme of research spanning nine months and 3,200 jobholders, employers and people who advise employers about pensions, who told them they were after something “honest and realistic, that made them feel confident and in control”.
Where Stakeholder clearly failed then was in ticking those particular boxes. That, and the fact that the Collie was no cop. (Dear God, please don’t let these new comms visuals centre around a now retired Buzby character, tubbed up and embittered by his treatment at the hands of the flute blowing line man, yet fixed with a beaky grin as he sits atop his NEST eggs…).
As the slightly-too-chirpy voiceover on the two minute video walks us through how the brand name and logo for NEST were created we are told that PADA “thought long and hard about everything they [the 3,200 people surveyed] told us and used it to develop our brand. Finally, we showed them what they helped create. And they liked what they saw…” We also hear a jobholder in his 50s say it’s “easy to remember”, while another one in her 30s says “it feels right for me” meanwhile a couple of employers call it “bright” and “clear”. Ker-ching, PADA’s hit the jackpot and people are going to engage with saving for their retirement at long last. Cue much merriment and raucous celebration from all in the financial services market.
Er, not quite. There are two distinct camps emerging here: one is welcoming the move to compulsion and a national comms campaign around pensions saving and the other is hitting its head against the wall arguing that compulsion, soft or otherwise, when met by means testing at the other end of the savings cycle is just a gimmick and does not address the serious, long-term demographic problems facing retirement saving in the UK. To shoe-horn in another avian analogy, means testing is the cuckoo in the NEST.