Pensions Chair – 6 learnings for a new skill
The Pensions Regulator has consistently spoken about the importance of the role of Chairs of pension scheme trustees and the need to show skills such as strategic leadership, managing conflict and building a consensus. The new skill in this Covid-19 world is chairing meetings by video. We are going to share our experiences of how to get the most from Zoom and other platforms and remaining an effective Chair.
1. The agenda is not the same
Video meetings tend to be shorter than face-to-face meetings as anyone who has tried to hold a meeting starting at 10am and finishing at 4pm will tell you. This means that the agenda possibly needs to be shorter and include at least one and possibly two breaks from proceedings. The Chair also needs to have agreed the agenda items and the timings with the secretary in advance of the papers going out in order that everyone can see where the key agenda items are and what is expected of them – make decisions, note or something else.
What we have seen with a few clients is a morning and an afternoon meeting with a break from proceedings over lunch plus regular breaks. Alternatively, more work and decisions being done in Committees and the Board becomes a reporting Board. As always there is always more than one solution and you have to find what works for you, including holding meetings more frequently.
2. Meeting etiquette
As we say on our strapline ‘Refreshingly informal, intensely professional’ but this does not mean that there are no rules for video meetings. Controlling background noise is a necessity whether it’s using the Mute button or ensuring that people are in a quiet place. For someone working from home with a partner and children this is far from easy and Chairs need to recognise individual circumstances.
In our experience, opening the meeting 15 minutes before the scheduled start time is the equivalent of having coffee in the face to face world. People have a chance to ensure that the technology is working and catch up with colleagues before the meeting starts on time.
3. Managing visitors
We like Zoom because there is a waiting room facility which means that they have to effectively knock for entry. This is also a security measure and has only fairly recently become mandatory within Zoom. Sometimes the scheme secretary controls entry and sometimes the Chair. It depends what you are comfortable with. This means that if an agenda item is overrunning you can control the timings and not have people wandering into meetings before you are ready for them.
4. Chat function
The ability to have a quiet word(s) with someone during a meeting means that the chat function comes into its own. As Chairs we can gently point out to an individual that their time slot is in danger of overrunning or to ensure that individual or all of the trustees understand the presentation and raise questions. It also allows individuals to raise queries with the Chair or others (see 5 below)
5. Ensuring engagement
While a whole lot easier than managing conference calls, the Chair needs to understand that the body language clues in the face to face world are not as visible in a video meeting. This means the Chair needs to watch everyone constantly so as to spot when they may have a question or are unsure on any point. We have seen some Chairs assume acceptance of a proposal unless someone speaks up. Whilst we can see the merits of this for larger trustee boards there are risks that someone does not want to be the one to ask the question their colleagues wish they had the courage to ask. The Chair needs to build on the trust built up over time in order that their fellow trustees are confident in their ability to challenge or simply not understand.
6. Checking the legals
And finally… make sure that your Trust Deed or Articles of Association allow you to have remote meetings and you know what is quorate for your scheme.
If you like to discuss any of these issues with us please contact us at: