Preparing for Covid-19
12th March, 2020
Like many businesses in the UK at the moment, we are developing and taking appropriate measures to ensure the wellbeing of staff and our ability to continue to supply services to our clients. We provide a range of different services and this update captures how we are responding in key areas.
Business Continuity Plan
We are taking action to ensure that our business continuity plan supports our clients, and is ready for use when it might become necessary. Our Plan is reviewed and tested regularly in the normal course of business and since late January we have been making arrangements to allow us to respond to the escalating risk posed by Covid-19.
With offices in seven cities across the UK, we are well placed to serve our pension scheme clients. A large proportion of our 170 members of staff frequently work from home on an occasional or regular basis. Over the past week, we have taken steps to ensure that all members of staff are enabled to work from home if needed. We have run full tests of our Plan, including simultaneous full day closure of all offices, in order that we are prepared for any and all eventualities.
We anticipate that under most currently foreseeable contingencies, we will be able to fully support all services to our clients including trusteeship, administration, pensions payroll, treasury and investment management services.
Our business continuity team are currently meeting at least twice a week to monitor the evolving situation, and will communicate any action necessary to our staff.
We have confirmed that all of the suppliers who have access to our offices, and therefore come into contact with our team, will guarantee sick pay for their employees, should they need to self-isolate.
Working Patterns of our Members of Staff
We are encouraging our team to take a safe and pragmatic approach. We want to minimise the risk of them catching the virus, and so have asked all members of staff to consider working from home unless they have a particular need to travel, and to not travel unnecessarily for work purposes.
We are continually reviewing arrangements for external meetings. We have an excellent platform in Microsoft Teams for managing remote meetings with or without video and we would encourage our clients to make full use of this to reduce the level of personal contact arising from meetings.
We have also identified a small team who can attend our administration offices in Belfast or Glasgow by walking or driving to work, rather than using public transport. This is to ensure that we can continue to maintain access to incoming post, and scan any relevant correspondence for onward digital processing and to arrange outgoing post.
Technology Supporting Remote Working
Our business has been essentially paperless since 2009. Our IT infrastructure is entirely cloud based so we have no physical servers. We use a combination of Microsoft online software (e.g. Office 365) and applications hosted on Microsoft Azure. Our telephony is on Microsoft Teams and is fully cloud based.
Our central pensions administration software Mantle is hosted on the Google Compute and Amazon Web Services cloud platforms.
Paying Pension Scheme Members
Apart from a small number of members who prefer to be paid by cheque, our entire payment process is online in the cloud with all payments raised and approved in Mantle.
For those members who continue to be paid using cheques, we have written to them to ask them to approve a mandate to allow us to pay them by bank transfer instead. Clearly cheque payments are a particular area of risk in certain scenarios but we will do our utmost to continue to support this very small group of members.
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 will monitor the impact of market changes on our clients’ schemes and continue to advise any appropriate action on an individual basis.
A key platform we use is Mobius Life. We have been and will continue to be in close contact with them in relation to their own business continuity planning and testing.
Third Party Business Continuity Plans
We work with a number of actuaries, administrators and consultants to deliver services on our appointments.
We only appoint service providers who meet our high standards of security and business continuity. Regardless, we are making enquiries with key service providers to ensure that core financial activities such as pension payroll, treasury management and administration will continue through any potential escalation of protective measures. We will report back to our fellow trustees and sponsors on any issues that arise.
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.