Our response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
Over the course of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented substantive challenges to the working environment and it continues to cause significant uncertainty both within the United Kingdom and beyond. Like many businesses over the past few months, Dalriada has been working to ensure the wellbeing of our colleagues and our continued ability to provide high quality, services to our clients.
Our Business Continuity Planning since January 2020 has provided a strong foundation for us to deal with the challenges of the pandemic to date. However, we realise that the environment in which we, and our clients, operate remains an unpredictable, demanding and often fluid domain. We therefore want to reassure you that Dalriada continues to proactively take steps to reduce and mitigate the risks to our service, clients and colleagues.
Our Business Continuity Planning
Our Business Continuity Plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was fully implemented on 16 March 2020, when we moved to a remote working configuration. Since then, all our colleagues have been working from home, apart from a very small number working in our Belfast office to deal with our critical business mail. Our transition to remote working was seamless and a testament to the infrastructure and processes we had in place and the cultural ethos of our people. Our systems and processes are working well, and we believe the current operating arrangements can remain in place for an indefinite period.
Our Business Continuity Plan is continually reviewed to ensure it remains robust and up-to-date in response to the changing conditions. We believe that under most currently foreseeable circumstances, we will continue to be able to fully support all services to our clients including trusteeship, administration, pensions payroll, treasury and investment management services.
Our actions since March 2020
Technology and Processes Supporting Remote Working
The IT infrastructure we already had in place prior to the pandemic has been invaluable to our success in meeting the challenges presented by the pandemic. For example, our central pensions administration software Mantle is hosted on the Google Compute and Amazon Web Services cloud platforms.
However, we have continued to develop our technology to adapt to a remote working environment and enhance our service to our clients.
We have developed a platform, based on Microsoft Teams, for effectively managing external and internal meetings. We have also introduced the use of AdobeSign to electronically sign documents, increased the use of webinars to share knowledge with our clients and colleagues, and brought forward a programme to replace laptops for our colleagues to ensure they have the most effective equipment.
Dalriada also successfully completed assessments by external auditors under our ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 accreditations; confirming the continued robustness of our processes.
Dalriada, and indeed our group of companies, produced audited financial statements for the year to 31 March 2020 and filed same at the end of July 2020 in line with our usual timeframes. Dalriada and our group recorded year on year growth and the board were pleased with the group’s continued success and growth particularly given the challenging environment that we currently find ourselves in.
The wellbeing of our colleagues
We have taken a safe and pragmatic approach in relation to the wellbeing of our colleagues. Our early move to working from home minimised their risk of catching the virus. We have also ensured that they have been provided with the support, equipment and technology they need. All our colleagues received an initial one-to-one discussion with our HR Team during the lockdown period to understand their personal challenges and to support their mental health and wellbeing. In addition, we have supplied them with the equipment they need to work effectively.
Dalriada has not had to furlough any colleagues – in fact, since March 2020, our group of companies has grown its headcount by successfully onboarding 30 colleagues, at all levels from Director to placement student.
We continue to review arrangements for external meetings. Our current preference given the current level of risk is for remote/virtual meetings to continue with clients and professional contacts. However, our colleagues will discuss the possibility of external meetings if requested. We have carefully considered, developed and provided guidance to our colleagues in relation to external meetings – we anticipate these would only take place where adequate safety measures have been put in place to protect the health of all the attendees. We would be grateful if you would please consider this if requesting an external meeting.
Paying Pension Scheme Members
Our entire payment process is online in the cloud with all payments raised and approved in Mantle. As such, we have continued to manage pension payments with no issues during the period we have been working remotely.
We have moved the remaining members who were previously being paid using cheques to being paid by bank transfer instead – cheque payments were a particular area of risk in certain scenarios and taking this action has reduced the risk to these members’ payments.
Monitoring of Scheme Investments
We use a number of technology platforms to ensure that we are monitoring individual pension scheme investments and wider investment markets.
We have actively monitored the impact of the significant market changes seen over the past few months on the schemes where we act as trustee and will continue to advise on any appropriate action on an individual scheme basis.
Third Party Business Continuity Plans
Dalriada works with a number of actuaries, administrators and consultants to deliver services on our appointments. We contacted key service providers to ensure that core financial activities such as pension payroll, treasury management and administration continued through the challenges presented by the pandemic. We are happy to report that we have not to date experienced any significant issues with our service providers due to the pandemic.
We will continue to update you on our preparedness, the fluctuations in investment markets and the general position on your pension scheme as the situation develops.
Please do continue to contact us as normal if you have any questions at all.