Posts Tagged ‘Administration’

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK actuaries and consultants, today announced their appointment by The LS Starrett Company Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme for their award-winning, fully-integrated approach to DB scheme management – ‘The Spence Approach’. Services to the 475 member, £25 million Scheme will include actuarial, investment and pension scheme administration.

Alan Collins, Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence commented: “In a post-Brexit environment trustees are looking for greater scheme transparency and a more joined-up approach to funding, investment and governance. Our Mantle® system allows schemes to make informed decisions around their funding at any point in time, based upon the live administration and investment data – what we see they see. Trustees are no longer looking in the rearview mirror; instead they can be fully responsive to funding opportunities that will benefit the scheme. Ultimately, we are giving trustees and sponsors of all schemes levels of analysis and advice that is usually reserved for schemes with much larger budgets. We are very pleased to be working with LS Starrett and the Trustees.” Read more »

Neil Copeland

Wikipedia has no entry for “Improvisational Pension Scheme Administration Standards”. I know because I’ve just checked, to save you the trouble. Improvisational Theatre – yes!  Improvisational Comedy – yes! Improvisational Pension Scheme Administration Standards – No!

An element of the recent Pension Ombudsman decision in the case of Mr Philippe Pollet v Optimum Capital Limited  (“OCL”), together with some earlier Ombudsman decisions, suggests that Wikipedia is in need of such an entry. Read more »

Brian Spence

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, scooped their second award of the year last night at the European Pensions Awards 2015. The company was awarded the Pension Scheme Administrator of the Year title for their ‘Spence approach’* for defined benefit (DB) pension schemes at a prestigious ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.

Spence were judged against their peers by a panel made up of professionals from across the European pensions sphere, including providers, pension funds, consultants and representatives from various European pensions and investment associations

Brian Spence, CEO of Spence and Partners, commented: “We recognised some time ago that pension schemes are no longer working to an indefinite time horizon and needed new and innovative solutions to help them, so we developed our services accordingly.  To say we are thrilled to receive this award, our first for administration, is an understatement. We are incredibly proud of the service and have worked hard to carve our niche in this market so to be recognised by such influential and expert industry colleagues from across Europe, against such stiff competition, is a fantastic acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of our team in putting it together. Read more »

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners latest blog for Pension Funds Online –

The number of firms offering daily valuation tools has risen significantly in the last 12 months and many pension scheme trustees now have access to real time updates of their funding position.

This is a step change from the days when accurate figures were available once every three years, fifteen months after the effective valuation date, with an approximate roll forward provided once a year between valuations.

Whilst each consultancy firm extols the particular virtues of their system, is it time to take a step back and ask whether trustees are actually getting the most they can out of their spend on these tools? Read more »

Lauren Jones

On Tuesday Last week the Future Influencers came together for our second quarterly event.

The idea behind these events, for those new to the concept, is to bring together ‘up-and-comers’ in the pensions industry and give them an opportunity to learn from various firms as well as start building their own network of professional connections. You can read about our last breakfast here.

The day started off with a chance to catch up with fellow Future Influencers, followed by four, ten minute talks presented by Future Influencers  themselves. Read more »

Christopher Shortt

I presented at the second ‘Future Influencer’ breakfast seminar hosted by Spence & Partners, on whether closed schemes should behave like schemes in the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Assessment Period. Here is an overview of my presentation:

The PPF assessment period is triggered when a scheme’s sponsoring company goes insolvent.  Throughout this period, the Trustees of the scheme have to carry out a number of tasks (including data audits, equalisation reviews, benefit audits and rectifications etc.) to ensure that the scheme is up to standard for when or even if the scheme enters into the PPF. Read more »

Will Davison

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today advised that more schemes should be auditing their data controls to avoid data protection fines and suggested a number of steps that schemes should consider to ensure better information security:

  • A strict data policy needs to be implemented and maintained;
  • The easiest things can be overlooked and it is important to take a common sense approach. Data should not just be discarded in bins. Make sure there are confidential waste bins and that a specialist firm is employed to dispose of the waste;
  • Carry out spot checks on staff to ensure compliance with policies in place;
  • Consider having independent audits in accordance with recognised accreditations e.g. ISO 27001 or AAF;
  • Data security is not a tick box exercise – more probing questions should be asked; and
  • Train staff and make sure that they understand how important data security is and the procedures that need to be followed. Read more »
Neil Copeland

1988 and all that

1988. Lawrie Sanchez scored the winner as the Wimbledon Crazy Gang beat the then League Champions Liverpool in the FA Cup final, Phil Collins topped the charts with A Groovy Kind of Love and teenage boys everywhere were confused by their adolescent hormones generating an unhealthy interest in a cartoon Rabbit called Jessica. It was indeed the best of times and it was indeed the worst of times.

The Tories were in power, then as now, and believed in individual freedom and individual choice. You could choose to buy your council house, choose to get on your bike and, thanks to a reform introduced that year, choose not to join your employers pension scheme and instead take out a bright new shiny personal pension. Read more »

Greig McGuinness

GMP, Guaranteed Minimum Pension, the great invention to irritate pension administrators and make our lives more complicated than they have to be. Now you could be forgiven for expecting that following a couple of rounds of “simplification” and the cessation of GMP accrual from 1997 that GMP would be a problem of the past, with the number of non-retired members with a GMP element to their benefits gradually dwindling year by year.

Alas, just as we thought everyone had forgotten about Angela Eagle’s announcement last January, out come the DWP with proposed legislation and methodology for the equalisation of GMP. We could debate as to whether there is a legal requirement under European Law to equalise GMP at all, with some arguments against including GMP merely being a benefit underpin or that it is a quasi state benefit and therefore exempt.

My own opinion would be that there should be no Read more »

Neil Copeland

I’m thinking of founding Administrators Anonymous. A bit like Alcoholics Anonymous but for those trying to wean themselves off final salary pension schemes.

My Doctor did once ask me if I had a problem with alcohol but I explained to her that, on the contrary, I really quite liked it. However, I did come across an article about Alcoholics Anonymous the other day, as you do, which quoted the Serenity Prayer and was immediately struck by the latter’s applicability to pension scheme trustees.

For those of you not familiar with the prayer, they key part is reproduced below.

Grant me the serenity;
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage, to change the things I can;
And the wisdom, to know the difference.

It seems to me that trustees and employers spend inordinate amounts of time and money on having actuaries and consultants run all sorts of models with all sorts of assumptions, fretting about risks over which they have no control. For example, neither trustees, employers nor their advisers have any real control over future investment returns, future inflation, future legislation, future life expectancy or the future security of sovereign debt. I’m not suggesting for one minute that trustees should blithely ignore these risks – clearly they need to assess and understand them – however, trustees seem to be less engaged with at least one serious risk over which they do have control and which they can change.

Data.

Trustees – serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom are needed here and needed now! We’ve blogged on the consequences of poor data before, but to recap, without accurate data all the actual valuations and investment strategies you can think of are seriously flawed. Incorrect or missing data impacts on all key areas of scheme management. If your data is poor, that funding plan that you’ve agonised over with the employer isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

So I’ve come up with a 12 step programme to help trustees cope with their data problems based on the principles that have helped alcoholics, gamblers and sex addicts successfully confront their various demons over the years.

DISCLAIMER No inferences about my personal proclivities should be drawn from the entirely random set of addictions noted in the previous sentence.

12 Step Programmes invariably invoke a higher power for assistance, which in this particular context, is clearly Spence & Partners. Bearing that in mind, the 12 Step Programme for trustees struggling with data demons would look something like this:

  1. Admit to yourselves and Spence & Partners that you have a problem
  2. Believe that Spence & Partners can restore your data to an acceptable level
  3. Make a decision to turn your data over to Spence & Partners
  4. Make a searching and fearless inventory of your data and its shortcomings
  5. Admit to Spence & Partners, to yourselves, and to your current administrator the exact nature of your data problems.
  6. Be entirely ready to have Spence & Partners remove all these defects in your data.
  7. Humbly ask Spence & Partners to remove your data shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all members harmed by your incorrect data in the past and be willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Make direct amends to such members wherever possible.
  10. Continue to review and maintain your data and when you find it is wrong promptly admit it and correct it.
  11. Through monitoring and review continue to improve your data, seeking guidance where necessary from Spence & Partners
  12. Having realised as the result of these steps that your data was deficient in the past , tell others about the tremendous change worked by Spence & Partners on your data quality, and see what other areas Spence & Partners can help you in

As always with these self help programmes, Step 1 is the most difficult, but you will feel so much better about yourself for having taken it.

There is a serious point to this – there usually is to my ramblings but sometimes it is extremely well hidden. Trustees and administrators (and, whisper it quietly, despite the 12 Step Programme outlined above the latter doesn’t have to be Spence & Partners) need to engage and have an honest discussion about scheme data and how it can be improved. It’s no longer an option to sweep this under the carpet. For a more considered assessment of how trustees can really take control of their data and comply with the Pensions Regulator’s guidance in this area see our previous blogs on the matter or contact my colleague Mark Johnson or I to discuss our Pensions Data Service .

And finally, a couple of hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. The first says, “I think I’ve lost an electron.” The second says, “Are you sure?” The first says, “Yes, I’m positive…”

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