Mission of the Marathon Man

Richard Nolan

Operations Director

The Financial Services Forum

Over the years, Chris Pond has collected 17 marathons – an appropriate recreation for the man confronted with the “generational challenge” of directing the national strategy for Financial Capability. He tells Anthony Thomson about his 20-year task to help the most vulnerable engage more positively with financial services.
This is something of a Herculean challenge – so what was it that attracted you to this role?
Well, it’s precisely the challenge that was the first and greatest attraction. Very large numbers of people are very vulnerable to changes in their circumstances. Even back in the good times of 2005, our baseline survey tells us that 70% of people had made no provision for a change in circumstances – the arrival of a child, the loss of a job, the break-up of a marriage. All these things can throw people into severe financial difficulties with no visible means of support. So the challenge is to try to make sure more people are able to prepare themselves, budget carefully and think ahead. Hopefully, we’re starting to make a difference.
And I saw it also as a natural extension of my work at the Department ofWork & Pensions. I was responsible, for example, for moving literally hundreds of thousands of people off dependency on giros and pension books and into financial services with proper bank accounts. I worked towards the reform of housing benefit so people took responsibility for meeting their housing costs albeit with some local authority support. And I was involved in a programme to help people intowork and off benefits altogether. The next automatic step was to tackle financial capability – the extent to which people are being expected to take responsibility for their own financial affairs but without leaving themselves and their families at risk.
To read the full interview, please download the PDF document.

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