Strong foundations are not enough
20 Sep 2021
There is a lot of time spent in making sure transitions are effectively and successfully delivered, and rightly so. A good transition is a strong foundation from which to build a quality administration service. It is fundamental in fact. A bad transition is difficult to recover from and sets the service on the wrong path from the start. However, transition is only one part of the story; it is only the beginning.
Sustaining a quality service requires regular maintenance. A strong foundation is not enough to keep the administration in order over the long-term. Administration should be a partnership, in which both sides communicate openly about issues, requirements, changes and any other matter that may arise. There need to be regular meetings for this to happen and an open forum for discussion with the right people in the room. Reporting is required at a variety of levels recognising the difference between the day to day management that, say a Trustee Executive might undertake, and the information needed by the Trustee to fulfil their stewardship of the scheme.
There ought to be an annual plan of activities, for example to check up on the level of automation. As schemes change, automation can easily degrade. The annual plan is not just a checklist, but an opportunity to think constructively about the 12 months ahead. What changes are needed, what is possible and what is appropriate?
How will the administrator be held accountable by the Trustee? Are the right people around the table and do they have the necessary knowledge to challenge? How are issues being addressed and what changes have been put in place to prevent a repeat?
If we were talking about investments, all of this would be a given. It all sounds a lot like good governance. We often find that this is not routinely applied to administration in a meaningful way and, consequently, the once solid foundations start to crumble as services change, schemes mature, automation lessens, and attention falls elsewhere (for the administrator, on new clients. For the Trustee, on seemingly bigger ticket issues).
Administration warrants oversight to ensure that the energy spent in setting it up is not ultimately wasted. Effective oversight of your administration will provide an early warning system for issues, it will enable you to identify and mitigate risks, deal appropriately with significant events and help you achieve your objectives.