News last week that pensions industry stalwart Mike Morrison had died suddenly at the age of 55 was met with an outpouring of tributes that attest to the gigantic contribution he has made.
Morrison will have been familiar to advisers on two counts. The first would be his tireless work touring the UK with various roadshows, where he would present to IFAs on technical topics and explain endless pension reforms. Secondly, he was known for articles that appeared regularly in New Model Adviser®, as well as a host of other trade publications.
Morrison was one of the first people I met when I joined New Model Adviser® as a pensions reporter in 2010. He remained a close contact ever since. When my job changed to commissioning features, I relied on him a fair amount. He certainly helped me out of a few holes when deadlines were approaching and my copy cupboard was bare.
Often my calls were mediated by Louise Dolan, partner at public relations firm Camarco. ‘I was lucky to have had him as a client,’ she said. ‘What fun we had on press days, from “Oh yes, no problem, I can write that for you by tomorrow morning!” to “Oh, go on then – just one more drink”.’
‘Kindness and endless patience’
My former New Model Adviser® editor Michelle McGagh, now a freelance journalist, said she also owned Morrison a debt of gratitude.
‘It’s not until someone isn’t around any more that you realise you owe them so much,’ she said. ‘I’m sure there are many journalists who, like me, benefited from Mike’s kindness and endless patience when explaining complex pension jargon: not to mention all the brilliant memories of a fantastically witty lunch companion. He will be sorely missed.’
Morrison was the author of my all-time favourite recurring article. It was about a fictional adviser, David Peckham, and his clients, invariably someone called Bryan Riggs or Gerard Stephens. He would use these characters to tell a little tale about things like the lifetime allowance or death benefits. Let’s be honest, not everyone will find technical detail of pensions legislation as enthralling as others. The result for the client is the exciting bit for IFAs, and Morrison had a great instinct for that. It must be why he got on with IFAs so well.
Indeed, Nick McBreen, adviser at Worldwide Financial Planning, described Morrison as ‘a true stalwart in our business.’
‘A genuinely nice guy’
Morrison joined Provident Life (later Winterthur, then AXA Wealth) in 1990 as technical manager and joined AJ Bell in 2012, as head of platform technical. Consultant John Moret, who worked in the pensions industry for 40 years and is widely known as ‘Mr Sipp’, recruited Morrison to Provident Life, when he was ‘a relative unknown’, to run its technical team.
‘We worked together for over 10 years. During that time, my respect for him grew and grew.’ said Moret.
‘He was one of the most talented individuals I have ever worked with. But more importantly, he was a genuinely nice guy and brilliant company – particularly after a glass or two of wine. He always had a story to tell, and they weren’t all about pensions!’
Moret said Morrison was a key part of the growth of Winterthur’s adviser business, with crucial input during the early days of Sipps and income drawdown.
Fellow Winterthurian veteran Vince Smith-Hughes, now director of specialist business support at Prudential, presented at adviser roadshows with Morrison.
‘People will talk about his pension knowledge,’ he said. ‘But the truth was he was extremely erudite and knowledgeable on an awful lot more than just pensions. When I worked with him he was studying for a degree in European law in his spare time.’
Many others have echoed this description of intelligence and enthusiasm. Tish Hanifan, founder and joint chairman of the Society of Later Life Advisers, said Morrison was ‘generous in his willingness to share his knowledge to further the development of other advisers.’ Martin Tilley, director of technical services at Dentons, said the Sipp industry ‘should thank him for his contribution to where we are today’.
On hearing the news of Morrison’s death, Perceptive Planning director Phil Billingham tweeted a picture of a pint of beer, to be drunk in his honour. So in memory of many a tangential pub-bound pension briefing, invariably interrupted by diversionary tales about the town of Reading (where I studied and Mike lived) or music, New Model Adviser® would like to say ‘cheers Mike’, and thanks for the good times.