There’s a pool full of talent out there. Dive in!

1st June, 2022

  • There’s been significant momentum in the last couple of years towards having diverse pension trustee boards. That’s handy for me, I’m a professional trustee who could benefit from it. Diverse experience, people and views is expected to result in better challenge, new ideas and more robust decision making. This is good for scheme members and the momentum to make this happen is a positive change.

    Recruiting new trustees is an important route to improving board diversity. Get your search and selection wrong, and your campaign could unintentionally limit the pool of eligible candidates and the diversity they can bring. Then the old goodies are pulled out of the bag – “we can only choose from the people who apply”, “things don’t change overnight” and “it was important to find a safe pair of hands”.

    How many of these search criteria for professional trustees do you recognise?

    • needs to have been a trustee for 5 -10 years
    • is already a chair/trustee of similar sized schemes
    • is a trustee for other schemes in the same industry

    Some of these criteria limit the field of eligible candidates to those who have been a trustee for some time. A time when pension trustees were less demographically diverse than they are now. Or they restrict the pool to an established industry group who know how the industry thinks.  

    Or what about:

    • the retiring trustees knows someone who’d be good
    • I asked around my network
    • the adviser’s been in touch and thinks so and so would be a good fit

    This limits the pool of candidates to those in your network. Take a look at your LinkedIn connections – is your network diverse? Are your connections people who will provide challenge and thinking that’s different to your own? Will they bring the demographic and cognitive diversity that the board needs?

    So how can your trustee recruitment access greater diversity? What barriers can you remove to create a wider talent pool?

    • Quality not quantity. Describe the skills and competencies required for the role, rather than time served and be open to alternative evidence that candidates may use to demonstrate their suitability.  
    • Think outside the group. Ask candidates to demonstrate an interest, knowledge or understanding of an industry, instead of requiring prior industry experience. Test the candidate’s understanding during the selection process and determine how quickly they will get up to speed.  
    • Appoint a team of trustees. For large scheme appointments which delegate some responsibilities to sub-committees, consider appointing a diverse trustee team rather than an individual, where an alternate trustee attends a sub-committee.
    • Leverage connections and advertising. Look outside of your own network by asking colleagues to put forward their own recommended candidates. Consider where and when to advertise and how to communicate your message in an inclusive way, promoting the diversity credentials of your organisation. Reach out to younger potential applicants by using digital media to promote your opportunity.  
    • Establish a pipeline. Develop a diverse talent pool of potential trustees who could be mentored, or shadow existing trustees to develop their knowledge, until an appointment becomes available.

    Plan properly, think widely and dive in! Things can be changed overnight, there are more safe pairs of hands available, but you can only choose from those eligible or approached to apply.

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    • Published bySarah Brough

      Sarah Brough is an Accredited Professional Trustee, based in our London office. Sarah joined us in January 2021 from the Government Actuary’s Department where she was Deputy Chief Actuary of Funded Schemes for 10 years. She has more than 25 years’...

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