Five Key Qualities Every Pensions Manager Should Have
1st February, 2024
Success as an in-house pensions manager
Documenting the Effective System of Governance (ESoG) for many pension schemes is beginning to highlight the vital part played by pensions managers in the effective operation of the scheme and in many cases, for the first time, clearly illustrating the key person risk.
Effective governance requires an effective pensions manager and to be effective as an in-house pension manager, it takes a whole host of technical expertise and continuous learning. There are however some overarching qualities that really create happy members, a well-managed scheme and engaged stakeholders.
The five key qualities required for pensions management
In my experience pension managers are an incredible conscientious group that really care about doing the right things and creating good outcomes. Being meticulous and reliable provides the trustee board, members, and stakeholders with comfort that the scheme is well managed and will be very evident when documenting the governance.
It does not seem like the most obvious quality required to be a pensions manager. Striving to understand and respond with care to the needs and requirements of your customer is vital. In my case this is the trustee board.
Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity (ED&I) initiatives are encouraging greater diversity of trustee boards. Helping to eradicate groupthink to make better, more pragmatic decisions is a noble endeavour that also creates a significant task in ensuring every voice is heard and respected. Pensions managers can set a good example in how they interact with the different members of the trustee board, creating processes that allow points of view to be expressed openly and be appropriately recorded.
A key part in the role of a pensions manager is to liaise between trustees, advisers, and the sponsoring employer. You must ensure this partnership is successful, by setting an example of using active listening skills, facilitating debate and being responsive to the outside stresses and strains that might be influencing their reactions.
The same applies when handling member queries. Financial matters can be extremely emotive. Your compassion can create a valuable experience or otherwise for those in the trustees’ care.
As an in-house pension manager, you deal with a set of trustees with their own personalities and differing needs. Recognising these helps you provide the level of support tailored to an individual’s requirements. When I faced a change in chair of a trustee board that I worked with, the two personalities could not have been more different. Adapting to our new chair reduced friction in the transition and allowed me to maintain good relationships.
The pensions industry itself can seem like it is built on shifting sands. As regulations and legislations change, your ability to adjust to new processes and procedures will positively impact upon the continuity, compliance, and success of the pension scheme management.
A good pensions manager is resilient in the face of such frequent changes. Focussed on how the pension scheme, trustees and members can move forward effectively.
With so many stakeholders involved, the complexities of pensions management can be difficult to describe. Clear communication is vital. Whether this is regarding meeting key deadlines and ensuring everyone is onboard or, in the case of written communication making sure that minutes represent a true reflection of a particular meeting and the subsequent action points.
Complex information given to the right person, at the right time in the right format is the foundation of effective communication, resulting in good decision making. Whether an opinionated chief executive or forthright member nominated trustee (MNT), being able to communicate effectively to alleviate concerns or suggest an alternative option can create the roadmap to finding agreement and resolution. Making communication one of the most important qualities for any stakeholder to master.
Member communications are a particular task that has more recently had a spotlight shone upon it. The methods, channels and tone of communications all have an impact on how engaged the member is and some studies have shown, the quality of decision making and ultimate retirement outcomes.1
5. Attention to detail
In pensions management there are intricate calculations, compliance requirements, and reporting needed to be effective. Keeping up to date with key developments is important with ever-changing pension laws and regulations. It is essential to ensure that the pension plan remains compliant and avoids any legal issues.
The ability to understand complex issues is very much needed as a pensions manager, as regulations and legislation are continually changing. Understanding how these changes apply to your scheme informs any new actions and activities that need to be raised. It also gives a foundation by which to measure the scheme advisers and the advice they provide.
Being able to concentrate on the facts, apply those to your pension scheme and interpret their impact stands a pensions manager in good stead to protect the future of the scheme and its members.
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