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London Bridge is Falling Down

It was in the sixties, London was swinging and the decision was taken to demolish London Bridge, that was not fit for purpose, and build a new bridge - something groovy and modern. Back then, old buildings were being knocked down willy-nilly with the remains being dumped in rivers or rough land. London Bridge might have gone the same way were it not for the far-sighted intervention of former journalist and PR man Ivan Luckin, who asked ‘Why not sell the bridge to some Americans?’.

Luckin thought he could find someone like Hearst to take the bridge for a small consideration - maybe a million or so. The timing was perfect: London was fashionable. ‘England swings like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycles two by two,’ sang Roger Miller, who had probably never been east of Delaware. The bridge could be marketed as the embodiment of London’s 2,000-year history. Never mind that it had only been there since 1831. A sub-committee was set up, brochures were printed and Luckin took his salesman’s patter on the road. Before long, a buyer was found. Robert P. McCulloch, an industrialist and entrepreneur who was building a city from scratch next to Lake Havasu in Arizona. What better way of putting the new city on the map than buying London Bridge? Legend has it that McCulloch thought he was getting Tower Bridge. In fact, McCulloch came to the UK to sign on the dotted line when he was photographed on London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background. He was no fool, in fact, he was an admirable character; bold, adventurous and a bit batty. London Bridge was reconstructed and re-dedicated on 10 October 1971.

So what has this got to do with pensions?

  • Something groovy and modern? People are attracted to pension freedoms over the guaranteed income of a defined benefit.
  • Sell the bridge to the Americans? There is nothing wrong with selling but where the sale is to someone with little knowledge, it must be done with integrity. The NAO report in 2014 reported found that competition alone cannot be relied upon to drive value for money for all savers in the DC workplace pension market because of lack of knowledge on the buyer side of the market.
  • Photographed on London Bridge with Tower Bridge behind? A scam is a confidence trick where the scammer defrauds a person after first gaining their confidence. Scams play on basic human characteristics of credulity, naïveté, desperation and sometimes greed.

As in the Nursery Rhyme, there is no “golden bullet” that will solve all of the current issues in the pensions landscape but that should not stop us trying to make the retirement space a better place.

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