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Thursday, 18th April 2024
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Making pan-European pensions a reality Back  
John Feely, manager of strategy and business development, Abbey National Financial & Investment Services, chairman of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, and member of the board of directors, European Federation for Retirement Provision goes to London to work on achieving the ‘holy grail’ that is pan-European pension plans.
6.45 a.m. I wake with a severe pain in my ribs. As I contemplate a life-threatening situation I open my eyes and greet the vision of my 5-year old son bouncing enthusiastically on the bed and jumping knee-first onto my chest. I turn to see if any other children have managed to sneak un-noticed into the bed.

7.00 a.m. Breakfast is served. Cereal all-round. And then the frantic activity - showers, clothes, uniforms, lunch boxes, bags and briefcases. It’s Lisa’s turn to get the kids to primary school - Emma is 8, Ciara 6 and Eoin ‘dive-bomber’ is 5 - before heading to work as business projects manager in Friends First.

7.45 a.m. I’ve escaped! Into the car - my new baby… the new Jag for the new generation, or so they say - and out into the traffic. A quick check on news headlines and then on comes my current favourite Mary J. Blige to keep me calm for the short journey to work. Apart from the bottleneck at the top of Rathmines, things go smoothly and I pull up outside the Scottish Mutual International office at 8.15. Scottish Mutual International is the international life operation of Abbey National, and Scottish Provident Ireland, the Irish domestic life operation, is now also owned by Abbey National.

8.35 a.m. Coffee from Caf? Sol in hand, I’m sitting at the desk, opening emails and rooting through some leftovers from the previous day. About 10 emails received since the previous evening are quickly narrowed down to three important ones requiring some consideration before replying - one is to do with the demutualisation of Scottish Provident and how the windfall payment is to be made. As a trustee of the Scottish Provident Ireland staff scheme I respond to the proposal straight away. The others are added to the 20 or so other emails (and about 50 other things!) on my to-do list. Electronic calendar is up-dated and a list of priorities for the next day and week are drawn up.

9.25 a.m. A phone call to the office of the Irish Association of Pension Funds lets me know that the arrangements have been finalised for the forthcoming investment conference in Dublin Castle. A new world, a changing environment sums up the dynamic pensions market in Ireland at the present time, what with FRS 17, the up-coming Pensions Amendment Bill, not to mention developments at European level. Ronnie Simpson, PR guru extraordinaire calls to get agreement on the latest IAPF press release - calling on the Government to give priority to the passing of the Pensions Bill before the next election.

9.45 a.m. Back into the car and heading for the airport. Traveling is an unfortunate by-product of being involved in the Strategy and Business Development Group in Abbey National. But today it’s only London and back - not too bad. I take five calls and make two before I get to the boarding gate. My office phone is on constant divert to my mobile so I’m always ‘on call’.

12.20 p.m. My best bit of exercise of the day - walking from gate 90 in Heathrow out to catch the tube. I normally take the Heathrow Express but today I’ve a lunch meeting in Covent Garden.

1.00 p.m. Lunch in a wonderful little Italian restaurant ‘Rez’s Cuccina’. I’ve arranged to meet Simon Gilliat, one of my colleagues on a working party for the European Federation for Retirement Provision, and a fellow actuary. We’re working on a pilot project to develop a pan-European pension plan.

2.00 p.m. The main event for the day is a meeting with representatives of the UK pension authorities, the Department of Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue and the Treasury to discuss the pan-European pension institution pilot project from a UK perspective. It was a very worthwhile meeting. We’ve now met with the Irish and UK authorities and after the meeting Simon and I put together plans for a meeting with the Dutch. The Irish, UK and Dutch pension systems are considered to be the most developed and the most alike in the EU. If we can’t get agreement between these countries it’ll be pretty hard to make any progress to achieve the holy grail of pan-European pensions.

4.30 p.m. Back on the tube and heading for Abbey National Corporate Headquarters in Baker Street. The address of Abbey National House incorporates 221B, but today there aren’t any tourists outside taking photographs! I arrive just in time to join a meeting with my boss, David Woods, director of Strategy and Business Development, other senior group corporate development staff and the group’s external advisors. As part of an international project we spend the next couple of hours considering possible development opportunities.

6.30 p.m. Just time for a quick drink with the boss to discuss arrangements for the following weekend’s trip to Lille to meet up with the heads of Abbey National’s French and Italian operations, before heading back to Heathrow for the sleepy flight home.

10.00 p.m. Home again, but too late to read the kids some Harry Potter. I’ll make up for it tomorrow night.

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