The cheese is moving…

Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, co-chief executive of Mallowstreet, the online community for the pensions industry, has a tale of mice and men – and the search for new “cheese”

In his book Who Moved My Cheese? Dr Spencer Johnson describes a couple of mice and a pair of humans who feast on a giant pile of cheese every day. One day, one of the mice observes that the enormous pile of cheese is shrinking and, after some debate with his fellow mouse, heads off in search of new, different cheese. The myopic humans don’t think the cheese mountain is getting smaller, so they stick around until finally there is no cheese left.

“Cheese” is a metaphor for everything we hold dear – income, jobs, relationships, influence, the status quo. The winning move is to let go of old cheese and search for new cheese. Those who fail to do so will find that their cheese will move and leave them cheese-less – not a good place to be.

Cheese is moving faster than it has ever moved before. Uber, Airbnb, PingTune, Wonga, Tinder and Zoopla are all examples of cheese-moving platforms that have fundamentally altered the way people live their lives and make decisions. Those folk who used to work as travel agents now have a different job. Drivers of black cabs are dusting down their CVs. Life changed overnight.

SAVINGS APPS AND PLATFORMS

Cheese is also moving in the pensions industry. Following the undeniably bold Budget by Chancellor George Osborne, which for the first time allows retirees to spend their pension pot however they wish, there has been a rush to innovate savings apps and platforms.

Prepare to be surprised and delighted by a plethora of innovative apps and platforms helping to make sense of your finances and retirement options

Most are still embryonic, but the initial show and tell has been exciting. I have been road-testing a fabulous new platform that helps you prioritise your spending and presents you with a compelling diagram illustrating just how likely you are to be able to afford that new Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 or South African safari when you retire. Assuming you want to educate your children privately in the meantime, that is. Then it shows you how to exit the reality distortion field and make some smart decisions.

Prepare to be surprised and delighted by a plethora of innovative apps and platforms helping to make sense of your finances and retirement options. If you can map your music library and choose your life partner on your phone, you should really be able to use it to plan for, arguably, the most important phase of life – old age. The tech and pension gurus are on the case, and it’s going to change the way we make those all-important choices about our future.

Let’s talk about choice. Buying a house? Going on holiday? Buying a second-hand piano? Now you can list your specific criteria – style, location, model and, within seconds, a list of houses, exotic islands or pianos are displayed for your perusal and consideration. Pension plans have an immense challenge in selecting appropriate assets in which to invest. That mission includes choosing asset classes and managers capable of delivering high returns for low levels of risk; a tall order in this environment. So, it seems obvious the pensions industry should apply the technological innovation and expertise that allows such refinement and choice elsewhere.

Imagine being able to search for precisely the asset class, risk-and-return profile, and geographic location of interest. Not a two-bedroom flat in Clapham, but ten-year investment in an emerging market and land of opportunity returning double digits. After all, the world is soon going to need about 70 per cent more food to sustain us. Some 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa. Maybe that’s where the new cheese is…