Articles - How to ease the workload of pension scheme managers


The pensions world continues to get increasingly complex. How can pension managers stay on top of their workload and associated governance arrangements? Our recent survey with pension scheme managers has highlighted the pressures they are under and the growing need for external support to help manage their workload, while at the same time delivering complex technical projects. The survey findings also emphasise the growing importance of succession planning.

 By Christine Kerr, Principal and Senior Pension Management Consultant at Barnett Waddingham

 Workload pressures
 The survey found that many pension scheme managers are struggling with their day-to-day workload. Almost half of those who responded said they need to work additional hours to keep up, and almost a third said that they accept they can’t finish everything. Is this acceptable?

 What do you and/or your pension team do when you have too much to do?

 47% work additional hours to keep up with workloads

 When asked what they would do if the trustees or sponsoring employer wanted to carry out additional projects (such as a Pension Increase Exchange exercise or GMP equalisation) the survey revealed that, while almost two thirds would seek external resources such as executive management services, more than 20% would seek to delay the work, knowing that this may hold up journey plan targets. This demonstrates the need to consider securing additional specialist external resources like our our Pension and Executive Management (PEMS) team.

 You need to carry out additional technical projects. What would you do?

 61% seek external support for additional projects

 23%delay work, despite this affecting targets

 "The skills and knowledge acquired by pension managers is invaluable and currently in high demand. We have several former in-house managers in our PEMS team. They bring a different perspective and pragmatism to the service we provide to our clients. That, combined with our independence and the diverse expertise of the wider PEMS team, makes us one of the leading and most trusted providers of trustee executive and governance in the market."
 
 External support
 The survey also asked respondents what they would do if their trustee was behind with governance-related work, such as assessing the scheme governance arrangements against the new General Code, properly recording delegations, having clear terms of reference in place for the trustee and its sub-committees, and adequate oversight of risk management.

 Almost 40% of those who responded said that they use the services of external governance advisors. However, nearly 20% either said that they would make a plan but not stick to it due to other priorities, or that they would turn a blind eye and hope that no-one noticed. This is where specialist external governance resource, such as our PEMS team, can prove invaluable.

 What would you do if your scheme was behind in governance-related work?

 37% secure additional resource from an external pensions expert

 15% make a plan but not stick to it, or ignore as “no-one will notice”

 Best practice
 The pensions world is ever changing. So keeping up with new requirements as well as workloads, is a real challenge.

 The survey asked the respondents how their scheme keeps up with the latest industry best practice. Around 50% said that they have an external governance adviser. In addition, 33% said they learn about developments as part of their day job and 37% said that they attend seminars.

 How do you keep up with the latest industry governance best practice?

 49% have an external advisor

 37% attend external seminars

 33% learn about this on the job

 Succession planning
 Worryingly, the survey revealed that one in three (33%) of pension scheme managers have done no succession planning.

 "As we approach a transitionary period in the pensions industry, where increasing numbers of pension managers are nearing retirement, it’s clear many are still facing rising work pressures. As a result, we’re seeing a worrying amount of managers that have been unable to put solid succession plans in place to pass the baton to the next generation."
 
 Almost half (49%) said that they have a relationship with an external pensions resource that could be used to help fill short-term gaps and build a long-term strategy. In other words, “we’ll think about when the incumbent pension manager decides to retire!” That assumes that the incumbent will stay to retirement and not be tempted to leave for another organisation, which leaves very little lead in time for a handover.

 Others said they expected to employ another person (25%) and/or find someone from the sponsoring company to fill any gaps

 (21%). have done no succession planning

 Upcoming challenges
 When asked about the biggest challenges facing pension schemes over the coming months, almost 40% said that securing trustee support resource to assist the in-house teams and/or take on that work was their top concern; i.e., workload and resource.

 Ensuring trustee boards have adequate skills, are performing in an effective way, and have adequate succession planning in place was also a key issue (35%).

 What else was on the list of issues faced? Administration data, delivery quality, and member experience (32%), implementing the requirements of the TPR’s new general code, including Effective System of Governance (ESoG) and Own Risk Assessments (ORA) (28%), adviser reviews and replacements (23%), and strategy setting (such as end-game planning) (21%).

 "Services like Pension Management and Executive Services can form part of a structured and considered approach to pension scheme management and should be a serious consideration for those who are struggling."
 
 With thanks to Cathy Aston for her insightful contribution to this blog. Cathy is a Senior Pensions Management Consultant in our PEMS team, with extensive in-house Pension Manager experience. 

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