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Facing the crowd

3 DC executives pitch to delegates in PLSA version of TV’s ‘Shark Tank’

Dragons Rene Poisson, left, Mel Duffield and Patrick Heath-Lay.

The U.K. retirement industry had its very own episode of "Shark Tank" during the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association's annual conference Oct. 17-19 in Liverpool, England.

As on the TV show, which is known as "Dragons' Den" in the U.K., the PLSA panel featured three executives, each of whom pitched to three retirement plan executives tools that would help solve communication headaches and engage employees to actively manage their retirement savings.

Mel Duffield, pensions strategy executive at the 60 billion ($78.9 billion) Universities Superannuation Scheme, London; Patrick Heath-Lay, CEO of the 5 billion People's Pension, West Sussex, England; and Rene Poisson, chairman of the J.P. Morgan U.K. Pension Plan played the investors.

Pitching ideas to them were retirement communications consultants Francis Goss, chief commercial officer at AHC, Heath, England; Vincent Franklin, co-founder of Quietroom, London; and Marian Elliot, managing director at Redington, London.

Like in "Shark Tank," the plan executives grilled those making the pitches on their offerings, which aimed to help participants visualize their life in retirement and prepare for it, engage millennials and communicate with inactive defined benefit pension fund participants, respectively.

Mr. Poisson, in the style of the U.S. TV show's Kevin O'Leary said ironically: "It's refreshing ... for the first time (in my time as a shark) I have been asked to invest at an appropriate value — nothing for nothing," about a free solution offered by Mr. Franklin.

Mr. Heath-Lay doubted the tool presented by AHC's Mr. Goss was focused enough. "Many people have many different aspirations. How do you keep it fresh to the individuals?" he asked.

In the end, the investors voted — but the ultimate decision went to PLSA delegates, who were able to vote for more than one pitch.

Quietroom's proposition saw the most interest, from 65% of delegates. Some 59% were "in" for Redington's strategy; and 55% of delegates would have invested in Mr. Goss' digital campaign.