Having new ideas can be a soul-destroying experience. There are so many obstacles to be overcome when trying to change a system, product or way of thinking. It’s not surprising that those who persist with their ideas often need self-belief that can seem obsessive to those around them!
The Silver Linings competition has been constructed to pave the way for investable solutions to improve the sustainability of older age living. It’s a big picture problem which society, government and all those involved in running pension schemes recognise. Entering a “business plan” idea is a real opportunity to make a difference… and a chance to win a £10,000 prize.
Drawing on my own direct experiences in innovation – benchmarks, responsible investment, Liability-Driven Investment (LDI), Cashflow-Driven Investment (CDI), unconstrained investing – the best ideas have three important ingredients; they have to be good (sounds obvious, but isn’t), enjoy auspicious timing, and make connections with as many aspects as possible of the big picture problem.
Full of ideas
The brainwaves part of the Silver Linings competition generated an impressive range of ideas which could all help solve older age care problems across subjects including medical and social needs, financial structuring and improvements to the built environment. On the shortlisted brainwaves section of the website you can see them all – with snappy video summaries from some.
You may find some of the ideas familiar or even “obvious”, but that was the concept behind the brainwaves, and to some extent the whole competition; sometimes the best ideas address the big issues head on.
If you have an idea and it seems blindingly obvious then don’t let that put you off submitting a business plan. Don’t worry that someone may have thought of it before, either. Most ideas aren’t new. Rather than feeling crestfallen or outraged that someone else has pinched “your” idea, be happy: a brilliant brainwave will come at you from many different directions. Once you’ve had it yourself you’ll suddenly see it, or something like it, everywhere; it’s a cheeky way our brains work to reinforce our own biases and strengthen our conviction and resolve.
When we gathered our wonderful multidisciplinary panel of judges together we found that for nearly every brilliant brainwave, someone knew something out there which had already been tried…and failed. The questions we asked ourselves were: Why did it fail? What makes this one different?
Timing is everything
And sometimes the answer is simply that the time is right, and it was wrong before. We decided to create the competition now because we feel the timing is good for new thinking. As well as the direct impact of this crisis on the older population, people are reflecting on how we work, live and care for each other. Technology is more readily available and there is a greater political will and budget. It’s also a global problem.
We have also seen coordinated action by governments and investors to tackle the global wicked (complex and apparently intractable) problem of climate change. While thinking about how we invest for the E of ESG, let’s not forget the S. The social impacts of improving old age living are particularly important for pension fund beneficiaries. It’s a great time to start sowing the seeds of change.
As well as wanting more impact from our investments, pension funds are also shifting towards thinking less about valuations and volatility and more about cash flows; whether for defined benefit pension liabilities or defined contribution drawdown defaults. This may change how we model our investments, and what we mean by risk and diversification.
Big picture thinking
Looking at the big picture of institutional investing, my sense is that, drowning in data, we will demote traditional asset classes and benchmarks. A new approach to unconstrained investing may focus on outperformance and commonality defined by non-financial impacts on themes like climate and social change rather than volatility and (only) financial returns. We are beginning to see this in the way that pension funds look across all their assets when defining their Net Zero actions.
When I originally started thinking about the Silver Linings Competition my hope was that we would be able to sow some seeds for Silver Linings Funds. Pulling together a mix of assets – real estate plus venture capital perhaps – these funds could provide both growing income and a sustainable impact on older age living and be suitable investments for pension funds.
But business plans don’t have to go that far: instead, each could focus on one project or investment. Like the brainwaves, none of them will solve the big picture problem on their own, but they, or something like them, could play a part – like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle – when put together with others. An asset manager might snap them up to form part of a Silver Linings Fund, or a pension fund might choose them to generate returns, add social impacts to their existing portfolios and support pensioners as well as pension liabilities.
For those still nervous about putting in the effort to submit a 3000-word entry (that’s only 3-4 times the length of this article), fear not. We’ve made it easy to cover what the judges will be looking for – the headings on the entry for on the website give you some structure – take a look and be bold!
The deadline for Business Plan entries to the Silver Linings competition is January 9, 2022.