Making the Selection

13 Dec 2021

MNT selection

We were appointed to help our client develop a pre-selection process for a single MNT vacancy on their trustee board. The candidates were always going to go to ballot, but the trustee wanted to be able to exercise some control over the skills and aptitudes of the candidates.

Our independence was a key part of this case and helped to overcome any vested or personal views of the trustee, but also, so was our ability and experience of running, compliant, proportionate, practical and suitable processes that helped move the trustee to the right result.

Of course, by “right” we do not mean that there was a foregone conclusion, but that the best candidates, suited and able to contribute to the trustee board by bringing the right skills and experience went on to the ballot.

How to select?

Defining the process is critical, and this is where experience came to the fore. We developed a process that was built around the needs of the trustee board, and sought to fill the gaps in expertise and experience around the table. This is not just about finding, for example, an expert in LDI, but about balancing the specific gaps against the general competencies of being a trustee of a large scheme. It is all well and good having an encyclopaedic knowledge of a particular specialism, but if you cannot communicate that effectively then it is of limited use.

We helped to define the process, prepare the applications and structure the interviews with an agreed framework of questioning and scoring of candidates that would stand up to any external scrutiny or challenge, and satisfy the requirements of the Pensions Regulator.

Six applications were received and through a robust selection day, five were put forward to a member ballot.

Making the appointment

Elections can be tricky. Although the client had pre-selected five strong candidates that were keen and willing, the majority of them could not win. There was only one vacancy. This is a particular danger when incumbents stand for re-election and find themselves at the mercy of the membership. This can result in the loss of experience, knowledge and key skills, so it is important to ensure that the role profile and selection of candidates ensures individuals with balanced skills are included in the ballot.

There is a question to be asked about the viability of election as a means to fill MNT vacancies, particularly as the focus increasingly shifts to the “professionalisation” of trusteeship more in line with what is expected of Corporate boards. Whilst not the situation here, some MNT processes use a panel to make an appointment from the member nominated candidates.

Key learnings

  • Taking the time to think logically through the process, and the balance between actively looking for specific skills and the general requirements of trusteeship can help achieve a better outcome.
  • The process needs to be robust enough to stand up to challenge, and meet requirements and this can be done through how you score and question the candidates. It is important to make sure this is documented clearly.
  • Elections do not always produce the desired or best outcome, so be clear about whether selection or election or a mixture of both is the right process for your scheme.