When Vanilla Trusteeship is not Enough

7th August, 2019

  • The hot sunny weather we have been enjoying in Scotland (this is a factual piece not fiction, honest) got me to thinking. As I nipped out to the ice cream van to pick up a 99, what I got was cone and a flake stuck into some very plain vanilla ice cream. What if I wanted something different? What if I wanted tutti frutti with sprinkles in a sugar cone? Nope, vanilla it was. That’s what we have mate and that’s what you can get. Where am I going with this? Well, here’s the point. When it comes to trusteeship vanilla may be OK once in a while, but schemes need diversity in what is being offered to them by professional trustees.

    Few in the pensions industry can fail to be aware of the Pension Regulators consultation on the Future of trusteeship and governance. If you are not, then go to the back of the queue please. This is a really interesting consultation not just for those of us who are professional trustees but for anyone involved with DB and DC schemes as it sets out what must be expected of those of us with responsibility for running pensions schemes and our relationship with the Pensions Regulator.

    When I was reading through it I got to page 18 and the section on proposals for improving the diversity of trustees on pension boards and it really struck a chord with me. As Head of Consultancy here in Dalriada I spend a lot of time interviewing prospective candidates to become professional trustees. One of the questions I often get asked is what am I looking for? I always answer that it is easier to tell you what I am not looking for (recruiters take note). What I don’t want is someone at the twilight end of their career in some professional discipline who fancies trying trusteeship. The door is over there thanks. What I am looking for is diversity. Our clients, pension schemes, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are mature some are not. Some are well funded and, on their way, to buy out some have a long way to go to get there. Some are active some are not. Many have problems and issues and some, well some are lucky that they don’t. What none of them have is the need for a one size fits all approach. They don’t need vanilla.

    When I look for someone who can be a trustee I look to what our clients need. What will add to our skills DNA? We have Trustees who have been (and are) actuaries, lawyers, accountants, restructuring experts, covenant specialists, pension managers, investment specialists and from all sorts of backgrounds. With a team-based approach to marry up the right skills with what each client needs we look to bring practical trusteeship to trustee boards with the broad knowledge, skills and expertise to ensure that the trustee board is an effective and well governed entity and the members can feel secure that their interests are being looked after.

    Diversity does not stop there however. The consultation notes that there should be more of an effort made to encourage younger people into trusteeship. I couldn’t agree more. At Dalriada we have an initiative to bring in graduate trainees into the business with a view to streaming them into a career as trustees. Professional trusteeship as a career choice.

    Whatever and whoever we are as professional trustees we are anything but vanilla and I could not be happier about that.


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