Last Monday Kobby, our Head of IT extraordinaire, tried to hide the smug look on his face. It belied the brilliance, diligence and determination that was responsible for us, as a business, having nothing but a passing interest in the ransomware attack that left parts of the NHS and thousands of business around the globe, data disabled.
The reality is Kobby cared enough, when arguably it didn’t matter, to get people in the business who weren’t particularly interested, to do what needed to be done. Kobby is responsible for the structural integrity of our business IT infrastructure. He’s across levels of details I don’t profess to understand. However what he has done, with great effect, is to create a culture of understanding of the perpetual importance of cyber security. This has shaped individual behaviours of “doing the right thing” in relation to software patches and upgrades.
In some ways it would be easier not to worry about IT vulnerabilities. Until last Friday at least, there didn’t seem to be any imminent risk. If I didn’t upgrade my software today I could always do it tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.
This is just like pensions. They don’t matter – until they matter. They don’t matter until it’s personal. They don’t matter until it’s too late. It’s often only in hindsight one realises that doing what mattered really wasn’t difficult, the problem was it was easier not to do it at all.
The way I see it, the responsibilities of pension trustees are similar to Kobby’s. If they are genuinely focussed on driving good member outcomes they must look beyond the infrastructure that supports the provision of a pension and strive to shape the behaviour of the members. To help them to act in their own best interest, day in, day out.
It isn’t easy. Anyone who has raised a teenager will attest to the challenges of behavioural change. But it is possible with a systematic, governance approach to member change management. It’s about applying communication principles – being clear on what you want to achieve and implementing deliberately, diligently and iteratively.
I believe persistence pays off. Shaping member behaviour to do what matters, when it doesn’t matter will ultimately have smug looks on the faces of trustees and members when it does.