The bee side - Cracking the pensions code.
I read somewhere that we've all got a novel in us; so I decided to write my one out. You never know, I could be the next Dan Brown; stranger things have happened. Apparently most first-time would-be authors (these days I like to count myself among that number) end up writing thinly veiled stories about themselves. As I knew that from the outset I decided I wouldn't be so coy about it and I deliberately set out to write about the life of a pensions expert amid the tumultuous changes being wrought on the pension system at the close of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st. To be honest, I think it's got everything a novel could ask for: a real human interest story set against a background of tremendous social change and political intrigue. Also, as it was going to be about me anyway, I decided that I'd be the hero.
I read a couple of websites about how to write a novel and evidently the way to do it is to write up the first bit so the publisher can see that you can string words together and stuff and then to add a synopsis of the plot and story lines; easy.
The book opens with my hero getting caught up in the launch of stakeholder pensions just as the occupational defined benefit market goes into freefall. There's a marvellous scene where he tries to talk the government minister into reversing the decision to impose a default retirement age of 65 at the same time as cautioning the government about the wisdom of raising the state pension age to 68. The whole chapter, if I can be so bold as to say so myself, reads like the courtroom scene from Twelve Angry Men - in fact I'd be amazed if my book isn't made into a film one day, now I come to think of it.
Anyway, that's for the future. The synopsis of the way the rest of the story develops covers all the things you'd expect I suppose, but I intend to write it in such a way as to keep the reader guessing how it's all going to turn out until the very end. Classic novel writing technique really. So, although the readers will know from the outset that root and branch reform of the pension system is a requirement, they won't know until they get to the end if it's ever going to happen.
I'll start by leading them through the stakeholder reforms and make them wonder whether everything that turns up afterwards will be yet another false dawn. Then I'll gradually get them to see that compelling all employers to set up pension schemes and combining that with the auto-enrolment of millions of workers is the way forward, but I'll throw them a wobbly by introducing them to the baffling complexities of how means-tested support for the elderly can act as a serious deterrent to the auto-enrolled millions. As they get towards the end of the book they simply won't be able to put it down.
If it ever gets published that is. To be honest I'd expected rejections, but not quite as many as I've had. The main reason, as far as I can tell from those editors who've bothered to give any, is that it's all a bit too far-fetched and couldn't happen in real life...
First published Pensions Management, November 2009