Steve Bee has a remarkable ability to speak about pensions in a humorous and compelling way.
For this reason, he caught the attention of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, and has been given the prestigious UK Business Communicator of the Year award.
According to a recent survey 61% of employees in retirement plans fear outliving their money more than death. Given this level of anxiety, you think people would be very knowledgeable about how their pensions work.
Steve Bee makes the point very elegantly:
“If we’re lucky we’ll end up with two major lifetime assets. The houses we live in, and the pensions we live on. Ask people what their houses are worth, and they’ll know. But ask the same about their pension?”
For many years Steve Bee has been touring the country explaining how pensions work and why they’re important. He’s a Cassandra in a suit blithely warning of another looming financial disaster if employees and employers don’t become aware of the implications of pension legislation.
At the same time he has an admirable vision: ‘pensions without the piffle.’
One of the judges was impressed by how Bee was on a cruise ship talking to 800 finance directors holding them in the palm of his hand while talking about the history of pensions.
He is an accomplished cartoonist. He draws illustrations as he goes along which are projected on a screen to make his points. He also uses flip charts.
Significantly, we can find no evidence of him using PowerPoint slides.
The judges were impressed by his ability to put complicated ideas into words of one syllable.
He uses statistics that are memorable and persuasive.
“In 1960 there were four people at work for every person in retirement, and those guys didn’t live very long, by the time you retire there will be two people for every person in retirement.”
Bee is unusual in that he’s a pensions expert who is comfortable giving an after dinner speech. He has a satirical turn of phrase:
“The Department of Work and Pensions has worked out that our industry simply doesn’t have enough acronyms at the moment.”
He evaluated the impact of phasing in auto-enrolment:
“I think it’s about as sensible as phasing in something like driving on the right. Lorries first week, buses next week, you know that sort of thing.”
He also memorably described the process of auto-enrolment from the perspective of a small business owner.
“Some people who are not eligible, when you tell them they are not eligible, you've got to tell them that they can be eligible, if they want to be eligible, and if they do want to be eligible, they can become eligible, if they want to, and you’ve got to pay in for them, even though you don't have to pay in for them, if they're not eligible.”
We don’t expect businessmen to be social reformers.
Bee has a superb record of simplifying the jargon that surrounds the world of pensions and benefits. He’s even produced a graphic novel on the subject.
He makes serious points without indignation, tackling head-on what many people are ignoring.
The judges at the UK Speechwriters’ Guild decided to award Steve Bee the prize because of his evangelical commitment to telling people that the state pension is unlikely to be adequate in the C21st, in a style that everyone can understand.
Listening to Steve Bee is like being entertained by a stand up comedian.
Only when you get home do the implications of what he’s told you hit you like a bucket of cold water.
UK Business Communicator of the Year 2014
The Speechwriters’ Guild Citation