Advisers have to up their game to help trustees comply with Code of Practice, says Spence

Marian Elliott

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Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today said that The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) new Code of Practice will mean advisers will have to go further in their efforts to advise trustees, by collaborating to present big picture advice and refining their processes and use of technology to deliver cost effective monitoring solutions.

Marian Elliott, Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence, commented: “By putting the covenant at the centre of the scheme’s decision making, the Code is essentially crystalising current best practice and encouraging trustees to adopt an integrated approach to risk management. This decision making and planning structure makes complete sense, as the covenant is the main driver of risk in the pension scheme. Investments can underperform, life expectancy can increase, the funding position can worsen – but the only circumstance in which members don’t get their full benefits is if the company can’t weather this negative experience.

“There will certainly be challenges in some sectors however. For trustees of smaller schemes, where budget and time to spend on governance is constrained, the requirement to obtain detailed covenant advice or to carry out asset liability modeling or stress test their strategies may mean they are spending more in this area. This is a good thing though, as the spend on advice to implement and monitor a sensible, coordinated approach to risk taking is far more valuable than spending too much on number-crunching ‘compliance’ work.

“For trustees of schemes with weaker sponsors, there will be a need to justify any investment risk taken or put in place contingency measures, which may result in more prudent investment strategies and higher deficit figures – leading to increased reliance on sponsor contributions for already weak employers. This will be a really difficult, but important, balance for trustees to strike.”

Elliott continued: “Whilst the Code is relatively lengthy, we would urge trustees to engage with this. It is absolutely the right way to think about risk management and should result in better outcomes for members and a better understanding from trustees and sponsors of the issues they need to overcome in order to get their scheme to a fully funded position. There is also no reason why the Code should present any difficulty for trustees, as with the right advice this integrated approach shouldn’t result in significant additional cost – and will almost certainly help make their decision making and monitoring processes a lot clearer.”

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