Lifestyle Article - First Actuarial founding partner Hilary Salt retires

Hilary Salt, a founding partner of First Actuarial, former Actuary of the Year, and well-known personality in the UK pensions industry, has announced her retirement.

 #Hilary’s career started in 1981 at Refuge Assurance in Manchester, where she began her training as an actuary. Following two years at Willis Towers Watson, she spent a decade setting up and running her own pensions training and advice consultancy. In 2002, she was appointed as partner at Hazell Carr. And two years later, she became one of nine founders of First Actuarial, which recently posted an annual turnover of over £33m. In 2012, she was named Actuary of the Year.

 Hilary has certainly made her years in the pensions industry count.
 She has improved the position of all the schemes she has looked after, and has played a central role in the introduction of two new NHS pension schemes. For one client, she brought together seven legacy schemes, merged them with another big scheme, then integrated yet another scheme under one trust. She says: “Aligning all the benefits involved a lot of hard work and negotiation. But it was worth it to see every member in every scheme treated fairly.”

 Hilary has been an active member of the pensions profession throughout her career. She has played an instrumental role in a number of national initiatives, including The Pensions Regulator’s funding industry working group. And she can justifiably claim to have transformed pensions knowledge in the trade union movement.

 Hilary does have one regret though. She says: “I would have liked to have seen the Royal Mail CDC scheme up and running before my retirement. CDC is my most important legacy. First Actuarial’s Derek Benstead and I teamed up with the Communication Workers Union, and Royal Mail and its advisers to devise a fundamentally new type of pension for the UK. It’s our best hope of closing the generation gap in pensions.”

 Changes in the pensions world since 1981
 In a career that has spanned more than four decades, Hilary has seen a lot of change in the pensions industry.

 She says: “When I started working with pension schemes, we were dealing with surpluses and benefit improvements. As the decades moved on, returns shrank and scheme deficits appeared. We’re now coming back to higher returns and surpluses and I feel like I’m back where I started.”

 Over the course of Hilary’s professional life, open Defined Benefit pension schemes have all but disappeared in the private sector. “I see that as a failure of the industry, one that I hope CDC will help to address,” Hilary says.

 She recalls: “Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, pensions were something that employers and trade unions would always discuss together. With the loss of trade union power, negotiations on pensions have become rare, and yet they’ve never been more necessary. For the millions of workers in minimum auto-enrolment schemes in particular, pensions should be near the top of the bargaining agenda.”

 Hilary and First Actuarial
 As First Actuarial approaches its twentieth anniversary, Hilary and her colleagues have been working hard to codify the values that the firm is known for. She says: “We’ve lived those values for a long time, but codifying them means that people can make sure we live up to them.”

 Hilary sees training and development as a particularly strong value at First Actuarial.
 She says: “Throughout the firm’s history, we’ve prioritised training and development. Right now, we’re preparing to welcome our first intake of actuarial apprentices, and that’s something to be proud of. In our Manchester office, I’m leaving behind a great team of people, led by three partners. I’ve seen them all develop into accomplished professionals who now work alongside the impressive individuals we’ve appointed as our client base continues to grow. I’ve no doubt that First Actuarial will go from strength to strength. The services we provide and the value that underpin those services are in great demand.”

 Hilary concludes: “I’m really sorry to leave behind lots of fantastic clients and colleagues. And I will miss them. But I do feel that the time is right for me. The team here has developed to a level where they can carry on without me. That gives me the freedom to tackle a very different challenge. Throughout my pensions career, I’ve worked hard to improve the lives of ordinary working people. I intend to continue to do that in the wider world by playing an active role in the forthcoming general election.”

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