This December, I will be measuring success by the number of Christmas cards I receive. A dearth of cards tells me that Which? has had a good year for challenging the status quo.
It’s 10 years since I joined Which?, and I have been looking back at the organisation we were, and how we’ve changed. There are, of course, strong threads running through our entire 57-year history: ferocious independence, robust research, attention to detail, scientific, comparative testing – and everything focused on making life better for consumers.
But what’s changed in the last decade is the scale of our ambition and the impact we’ve had as a result.
A revolution in pensions
I believe that 10 years ago we would have felt that certain powerful elements of the financial services sector were too big for us to take on. But our research and persistence in highlighting the patently broken market of annuities have helped to bring about a revolution in pensions.
Reforms coming in next April will finally remove the pernicious need to buy an annuity, which kept that market uncompetitive for too long. Now there will be a market with potential, and the power will be with the individual to choose what to do with their own money. It’s unfinished business – and Which? will scrutinise new offerings to ensure they’re fair, flexible and clear – but this is change on a scale that was unthinkable a decade ago, and is something to celebrate.
Your privacy online
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I think that digitisation will continue to give consumers greater choice and better service – you can already order something online at 2am and get it delivered the same day. But hand in hand with this is the collection of increasing amounts of personal data. I think Which? will have a role in helping people to take back ownership of their personal information. There’s also been an explosion in user-generated reviews online. These have a part to play, but they’re not a substitute for trusted, rigorous research and comparative testing.
Which?’s independence means we will continue to say what we think – regardless of how unwelcome the message may be, and whether it’s about printers or pensions. And we will continue to think the unthinkable.