Good Pension Trustee

Nov 10, 2020

What does a good pension trustee look like?

Since the Pensions Regulator launched its 21st Century Trustee initiative back in 2016, there has been plenty of discussion around this important topic.

Now in a Covid-19 video meetings world, how has this impacted you? Do you feel your trustee board and individual trustees remain fit for the purpose of running a pension scheme?

As a reminder, the purpose of the initiative was to make sure that pension boards have:

  • clear roles and responsibilities and clear strategic objectives
  • a skilled, engaged and diverse board led by an effective chair
  • close relationships with employers, advisers and others involved in running the scheme
  • sound structures and processes focused on outcomes
  • a robust risk management framework focused on key risks


What are some of the ways you can assess how effective your trustees are?

 Take the time to carry out a review

Trustees need to measure how effective they are being.

  • Take time to consider how the trustee board is working.
  • Do a gap analysis of trustee skills, not just pension skills, but things like technology, finance, communications.
  • Identify how long it takes to make a decision and build this into your ‘business as usual’ function, not something which is completed, filed away and never reviewed.
  • Understand your roles and responsibilities.

A review will help identify any potential weaknesses and, as importantly, the solutions as to how these can be solved. It will help you be effective and proactive in directing and supervising your scheme whether defined benefit and/or defined contribution.

Such reviews should be built in as a regular activity to ensure you are on top of all the issues which Trustees face.

Make sure you are on top of your Trustee training

Always the elephant in the room, developing and maintaining a trustee training plan is essential for all Trustee Boards. The Regulator’s expectations of trustees are ever increasing. Trustee Knowledge and Understanding (TKU) requirements are expected to be revisited in the Pensions Regulator’s proposed Super Code of Practice which we are expecting before the year end, along with a further TKU consultation and a regulatory initiative involving larger plans who have not adequately assessed and addressed TKU needs.

This is so much more than having the base level Trustee Toolkit knowledge (

Any training plan has to accommodate the need to get a new trustee up to speed as well as being able to meet the needs of more experienced trustees. This can be more of a challenge in a virtual world but increasingly, as companies have new starters who have yet to meet their colleagues face to face, it can and has to be done.

  • A ‘Got, Gap, Get’ analysis will help identify potential training needs.
  • Using advisers training sessions which are usually free is a good source of knowledge.
  • Meet with fellow trustees who may be grappling with the same issues that you are.
  • The Pensions Management Institute’s Trustee Group is an inexpensive tool to help with trustee training.

We have spoken before about the benefits of ‘Just in Time’ training on subjects such as actuarial valuations, trustee report and accounts etc. and we believe that any trustee training plan needs to accommodate such learning.

Assess whether your Trustee Board has the right skill set

Just as for different successful companies, Trustee Boards that have diverse skill sets can be as successful in running their particular scheme.

There is no magic ‘one size fits all’ make up for a trustee board. Whilst pension knowledge is important, don’t overlook the soft skills that all boards need, for example, the ability to collaborate with other scheme stakeholders.

A Board which has diverse skills and backgrounds can avoid the dreaded ‘group-think’ where people all share similar opinions which stifles creativity and reduces challenges to the status quo (not a good thing).

The ability to recognise potential and real conflicts of interest, come up with potential solutions and to develop practical action plans are critical skills for every Trustee Board. The Trustee Board with a diverse skill set it likely to have better results.

This diversity invariably means the board has trustees who feel confident and supported enough to ask the silly question which is never silly. It means that if someone has not explained themselves sufficiently for a trustee to make a decision, they will be happy to challenge them.

  • Have you identified what skill set your Board needs?
  • Have you any gaps and what do you need to do to fill them?
  • Do you have a succession plan so that if someone leaves you know what you need to look for?
  • Do you have a robust recruitment plan with the criteria that potential new trustees must fulfil before being considered?
  • Have you got the right mix of people on your board?

Whilst the Pensions Regulator is not insisting on every Trustee Board having a professional Trustee (accreditation is absolutely a requirement here) it seems to us to be way the wind is blowing. Whilst we would say this wouldn’t we, now might be a good time to think about the expected benefits such a person could bring to the Trustees.

If you’d like to know more, please contact us for an informal chat:

Email –
Or call us – 07762 320 602

If you’d like to know the pros and cons of having a professional trustee – download this handy guide

Other blogs you might find useful:

Pension Trustee training – are you up to date?

Governance – Do you meet the standards of the Pensions Regulator?

T  08454 334 199
M 07762 320 602


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