I passed, what was then the PMI Associate exams, in 1990, to have the hard fought for initials APMI after my name. At the time, I thought that having passed these I would not be doing any more pension exams in my working life. As an APMI I believed then, and still do, that the qualification is great for your career and for teaching you aspects of pensions that you may not have first-hand knowledge of.
When The Pensions Regulator made abundantly clear that the standard of trusteeship needed to rise in order to face the very different challenges which the pensions industry, the employers who fund pension schemes and the members who expect to receive benefits from pension schemes now face, I supported the greater professionalisation of trusteeship. The tricky part, of course, is how you achieve this.
Whilst PMI exams and The Pensions Regulator’s trustee toolkit are undoubtedly a help in demonstrating technical competence in a professional trustee, in our experience, which is by no means unique, a large part of the job is around soft skills.
How do you bring a trustee board together? How do you manage a number of different advisers in order to form a team collaboratively working the best for the good of the client? And last but by no means least, how do you develop and maintain professional working relationships with employers who may have very different views about the pension scheme?
Along with others, I volunteered to sit the PMI Certificate in Pension Trusteeship in January this year. I must admit to a degree of scepticism about sitting a 90-minute multiple choice exam to measure whether my soft skills were demonstrably good enough as a professional pension trustee. I did some reading around people skills and managing meetings as preparation. In the exam room it is very much a case of using the time wisely, not panicking when the answer didn’t jump out at you and remembering to breathe. I found there were questions where I felt the answer could be one of two or three, or a mix of these. In these cases, it’s the old chestnut of going back to the question and making sure that you read it properly and understand exactly what you’re being asked.
I came out the room feeling that I had been in a challenging trustee meeting which I guess is not a bad synonym for what the exam is out to measure.
I believe that anyone who holds themselves out to be a professional trustee should be fully accredited and, going forward, this will be the expectation not the exception.
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