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Will it be different?
8 June 2020

Will it be different?

Given the extra time one has to contemplate at present (no commuting), I ask myself if life – a pension trustee’s life – will be different after this all ends?

Assuming that it does end at some point. Will we just slip back into our old routines? Or will we take away some learnings and changed behaviour from the lockdown days? It certainly feels to me that some things for trustees will be different - the biggest is likely to be around the use of remote meetings, rather than face-to-face gatherings. We’ve all gotten used to Zooming (another noun become verb, just like Google and Hoover before it). I have been in many meetings using remote technology - formal trustee meetings, ad hoc meetings with advisers and providers, job interviews (as both interviewer and interviewee). Is it perfect? Not really, although some of that comes down to lack of familiarity with the different systems, and poor broadband. I do hope Boris decides to scrap HS2 and builds an information superhighway instead; give me 5G any day rather than a quicker railway journey to the North (sorry – soft Southerner talking). Trustee meetings – and meetings in general – will now be shorter, better structured, more focused, better organized – all round more efficient. Having realized that six hours in front of a screen is not nice for anybody, the background papers will really be taken as read, time will not be spent on processes like minutes and matters arising, papers for noting will be just noted. Quality time will be spent on the important

stuff that needs interaction and discussion to reach the right conclusions. Lockdown might well improve the quality of our meetings and ways of working for the better.

So, remote working might become a much greater part of life generally. I see the Germans are going to make the right to work from home a part of their employment legislation. More home working and less travel has some broader consequences. Companies might well question their spend on extravagant head offices – or any offices - along with their travel polices, especially business travel. This will have a knock-on effect on the assets we invest in – office blocks and retail units in our property portfolios or would we prefer residential property? We can expect gloomier assessments of covenants for many employers – such as those involved in travel – which will suit the Regulator’s view of shorter timescales to run off Defined Benefit schemes. And we might need to re-think longevity - I am an actuary after all! - for bad (more viruses, weakened survivors, impact of recession) or for good (stronger survivors, less transmission, less pollution even). Things could be different in the future – and I’m inclined to agree with Ian Dury - there are Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3).

Notes/Sources

This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine June 2020 edition

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Last update: 19 January 2021

Kevin Wesbroom
Kevin Wesbroom
Capital Cranfield
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