Blog: PLSA AC 2020 - Adapting to a virtual world

This week, the pensions industry gathered for the latest PLSA Annual Conference, but not in the way we are used to.

Everything seems to have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic this year, and the PLSA conference was no different. Instead of pension professionals from all corners of the UK meeting in Manchester or Liverpool, they gathered virtually in the PLSA’s online conference centre.

It must be said, the PLSA’s effort in recreating the conference environment in an online format was excellent. Upon clicking the link, attendees were welcomed into a bubbling conference centre, complete with people milling around, an auditorium where sessions were held, and an exhibition hall with stands from companies across the pensions landscape.

An information desk was available, as was a networking lounge and learning zone as we would usually experience at a ‘normal’ PLSA conference.

Although I’m sure everyone missed meeting face-to-face with a glass of bubbly in the exhibition hall and seeing friends and colleagues, the sense of community did not feel lost, with people still discussing the hot pensions topics and getting involved in Q&A sessions.

As with previous years, this year’s conference saw a variety of leading individuals from the pension and finance world, with the calibre of speakers not affected by the fact sessions were conducted over Zoom or through the PLSA’s video conferencing.

Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, made his now-customary appearance, speaking on a range of topics from pensions dashboards, consolidation, climate change and the Pension Schemes Bill.

Keynotes from the broader finance world, including The Money Saving Expert executive chair, Martin Lewis, journalist and broadcaster, Andrew Neil, and historian, writer and broadcaster, David Olusoga, were fresh and compelling, offering insight into the wider financial sector, as well as their views on the pensions landscape.

The Pensions Regulator was also in attendance, outlining its plans for the future, as well as representatives from some of the UK’s largest pension schemes and organisations, keeping attendees abreast of the latest changes and what to expect in the future in the pensions world.

Although many of us will have missed the conference being in person, it seems as if the 2021 annual conference could also be held online, with the PLSA saying that it is not planning to return to live events “as we knew them” until at least 2022.

This may bring sadness for some, but the PLSA did a stellar job in recreating the environment we know and love in an online format and I’m sure that next year will be the same, until we can hopefully meet face-to-face again in 2022.

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