Peter Nicholas draws comparison from the movie 'Taxi Driver ' to highlight communication problems within the pensions industry. In this insightful piece Peter asks how the industry can translate important messages more effectively to all members.

“Are you talking to me?”

22nd June 2018

First appeared on Pension Funds Insider on 21/06/18

This is the most famous quote from the 1976 movie, Taxi Driver. In the movie Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) looks himself in the mirror and imagines what he would do if he were to be confronted by a bad guy.

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who do you think you’re talking to?”

It’s a one-way rant of futility. Similarly, I see us as an industry, looking into a mirror, talking to ourselves – talking tough, imagining that we are talking to our intended audience. While we are standing there, watching ourselves say all the right things in the mirror we are not getting the message out to where it needs to be.

We are actually pretty good at talking to ourselves, we are also pretty good at talking to the people who are already interested. But we have a long way to go to talk to the tough guys, the disengaged member, in a way that makes sense to them.

I’ve said before that the transformation of our retirement savings regime from the paternalistic DB world to the personal responsibility of DC has been like leaving the babies with the razor blades. Most members are not prepared, psychologically or financially for their retirement.

I enjoyed reading the recent article by Ruston Smith, drawing the contrast between the amount of time people spend planning a holiday and the amount of time they spend planning for retirement, what he refers to as their 30-year holiday. It’s a nice analogy for the informed but I’d argue that for many, retirement isn’t going to be anything like a holiday – they need a 30-year survival plan!

Engaging the disengaged must become a priority. We need to stop talking to ourselves in the mirror and seek out these babies with the razor blades and make a long-term difference to their lives and the retirement savings landscape.

The first part of this is relatively easy, we have the data, we know who they are. The next part is harder but doable. Using language, behavioural insights, campaign thinking and technology to continually tickle and tempt their interest to the point of making a connection. As fragile as this may be, this first connection is a step towards a better retirement outcome for these members.

Strangely it is the pension scammers who apply these techniques most diligently to exploit the vulnerable. As an industry we have the know-how and need to use it for good and not for evil. There is already some excellent communication to the engaged, there is more we can do to reach the disengaged.

Who do you think you are talking to?

Peter Nicholas
Managing Director & CEO

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