12th Apr 2022

Prime Ministers, Penalties and Britpop!

20-20 Trustees celebrates its 40th birthday this year. In the second of our four-blog series, Trustee Director Andy Bakewell reflects on the second decade of our story; The 1990s!

40 Years of 20-20 Trustees / Part 2 – The Nineties

According to a YouGov poll, the 1990s are the UK public’s most fondly remembered decade – I’m not sure I would agree based on everything we were about to see…

At the beginning of the decade, the Bradstock Group were a broking group specialising in private insurance, concentrating on open cover policy for insolvency practitioners. This would often mean resolving the problems of associated pension schemes, and ultimately the task was passed to Bradstock Financial Services, where business was ticking over very nicely.

This decade saw major pension reforms. In 1990, the European Court of Justice ruled on ‘Barber vs Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group’, which meant that occupational pension schemes were obligated to provide equal benefits to men and woman, so the government decided that women would retire at the same age as men (which was 65 at the time).

The economic recession of the period saw an unprecedented level of insolvencies, which weirdly was good news for Bradstock, who had a specialist service providing insolvency practitioners with complete insurance cover for a month – it proved very popular. At the same time, the Social Security Act 1990 came into effect which required insolvency practitioners to assess whether scheme trustees were independent and, if found wanting, appoint a true independent.  By the end of the decade, the combination of the recession, Bradstock’s IP insurance and the Social Security Act 1990 helped grow the number of small pension schemes on our books to over 400.

As business boomed, I remember we took delivery of a computer that sat on a desk, alone, for months – Why? Nobody had any idea of how to use it!  Most business was still largely conducted by post and I have memories of walking into the office every day to see another huge post bag of work – the work seemed endless – but in retrospect, it was also a really exciting time. 

An original Apple Mac computer with disc drive

1990 saw Margaret Thatcher resign as Prime Minister and return to the back benches.  Her tears were talked about just as widely as those shed by Gazza in Italia 90 (before that penalty shoot out), as she was replaced by Sir John Major – nicknamed the ‘grey man of politics’ (due to his uninspiring leadership). And while British politics may have been grey, British culture was anything but – for this was the decade of Brit Pop; think Blur and Oasis, and some wannabe band called The Spice Girls!

In 1997, Tony Blair’s New Labour won a 179-seat majority, ending their 18 years in opposition, establishing a new era and mood for the country and for business. Cool Brittania meant the Union Jack was OK again – just ask Geri Halliwell – whilst British films such as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Trainspotting’ were huge successes on both sides of the Atlantic.

At a time when Alexander McQueen was the darling of the catwalk and Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were taking the contemporary art world by storm, good mood vibes came to an abrupt halt, as the world wept, shocked by the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Closer to home, the Bradstock Group was having problems with its own pension scheme in serious deficit. In what was a ground-breaking court case, in 1999 the company promised to sell off some of its business to pay the deficit. This saw Bradstock Trustee Services sold to Alexander Forbes, in a case renowned as the first court approved pension compromise. A sad end to a great company, but also the beginning of an exciting new era… come back next week, when we explore the noughties!

With over 40 years-experience in trusteeship, 20-20 Trustees are an award-winning professional independent trustee organisation, committed to making a difference in the world of pensions. Whatever your trustee requirement, we’re sure we can help. Get in touch today!