As a trustee, you’re not expected to understand the underlying technology of remote systems, enriched web functionality and biometric IDV, but you are expected to appreciate they need to be overseen differently. Governance is more complex and different questions need to be asked of administrators. Their management information should reflect this in the Stewardship Report. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) for wholly online transactional processes are practically meaningless, it is better to understand the web experience to see how it can be improved. Trustees can see how different cohorts within their membership are behaving and interpret their needs. They can understand if they have pockets of digitally disadvantaged members and ensure these people are not forgotten in the race for fully automated self-service systems. They can survey their members to appreciate changing attitudes to investments – such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors. They can understand where there are bottlenecks in a web-based system which could indicate areas of poor data, or poorly designed processes. Innovations in the technology underpinning administration means that historical peer review and checks should be replaced. After all, it’s no good having a high-tech administration system where every calculation is coded correctly but then manually checking each one! But regularly audited benefit specifications and test packs are vital to ensure that systemic error doesn’t creep in. Web-based systems must also be cyber secure and trustees should insist that this is independently audited. Whilst technology shouldn’t mean cheaper, it should mean better value and trustees need to become adept at measuring this.
People are more vulnerable in economic downturns and no trustee wants their members to become victims. Although not all linked to technology, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reported over £30m has been lost to pension scammers since 2017. The Pensions Regulator (TPR), FCA, and the Pension Scam Industry Group (PSIG) have great collateral to support schemes in combating scams. Administrators are the front line in protecting members through robust processes to spot potential scams. Trustees should engage with their administrators to ensure innovation and technology delivers a high quality service, better member experience, and protects their members.
Being accredited – I believe that being a PMI Accredited trustee is an important step for any trustee and the first in ensuring you do the best job you can when you have responsibility for people’s pension money. It is the baseline to test you understand the governance needed for this important role. But, built into accreditation is continuing professional development and this is vital to ensuring you keep knowledge up-to-date.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine October edition.
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