When I was first a member-nominated trustee (MNT) it was a relatively small diversion from my day job. Board packs to be read would arrive about a week before the quarterly meeting (scheme secretaries are so important), and on the rare occasions that we needed to made decisions (should we increase emerging markets investments by 2%), then we might take a year to do it – after all, pensions are long term.
As an MNT I learned a lot. I got to know my place around the table and the roles of the advisers. I learned the differences between the three As: what accountant ‘Excels’; the auditor examines; and the actuary expects. I also met a whole new vocabulary regarding investment, governance and processing – drawdown (the bad type), spreads, hedging, fiduciary duties, yield curves and a catalogue of TLAs: TRD, STP, DGF, not to mention TPA, TPR and of course the PMI.
In life we hope for satisfaction from our jobs and trusteeship delivers that. As a trustee I have always enjoyed new learning but grounded by the needs of scheme members, few of whom have any idea about their pensions, yet it is so important to them and their families. As trustees we are the facilitators and door-openers for their interests. Making judgements as to benefit distribution on death cases, for example, quickly endorses the point.
So what of the future? Well, no longer is it a few hours reading per quarter. There are multiple interactions every day on today’s Master Trusts, and a much greater weight is placed on governance and compliance matters. There is more focus on financial security, contingency planning and on fit and proper competencies – in fact all the grown-up things!
Of course, consolidation into and across Master Trusts will continue and the single company trusts are destined to decline. I would, however, like to see the MNTs who are then retired becoming MNRs (that’s R for representative) – as there is still a need for good member communication and active feedback channels with the Master Trusts. MNTs are ripe for that role.
And now there is new learning with today’s subjects - climate change, stewardship, diversity & inclusion (who knew, without the BBC, there were 100 genders!), Bio-Diversity and many more acronyms: RI, ESG, PRI, TCFD, UNSDGs. And still the members need help just the same, but now the death certificates say COVID.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine April 2021 edition.
Last update: 7 April 2021