The earliest occupational pensions were provided by benevolent employers and financed ‘unfunded’ from general assets. But in the 1920s the first insured pensions emerged in the United Kingdom (following a slightly earlier trend in the United States), financed by the employer but backed by the greater security of an insurance contract. Thus began the involvement of the financial services industry in the provision of retirement benefits. In the United Kingdom this development faltered – for better or worse – with the extension of state retirement pensions after the second world war, only to receive a boost with the government’s active encouragement of personal pension schemes in the 1980s. The pensions misselling episode that followed was a major setback to private sector involvement but – as the industry gears itself up to deliver the new ‘stakeholder’ pensions – it seems to be a setback only and the financial services industry is poised to become the main provider of retirement benefits in the new century.