Skills and Experience


What does TPR say?

The main points of TPR's guidance were:

  • Having a diverse board will allow you to manage the scheme well
  • When you recruit and select trustees, you should think about the needs of the board as a whole
  • You should review the performance and effectiveness of the board annually and refer to the objectives in your business plan

Read the guidance here.

What do we think?

Much of what TPR has said in the skills and experience guidance has merit and continues from the previous month on training and improving knowledge. What is there makes sense.

The emphasis on skills analysis, filling gaps, board evaluation and trustee assessment, and disclosing how the board collectively is fit for purpose to run the scheme (and with confirmation that DB Chairs statements are to be introduced), are all important for trustees to consider and address. We’ve talked about this frequently in the past and in response to last month’s guidance. There are also plenty of examples on our 21st Century portal. It’s worth stressing again the importance of training plans with one-to-one discussions, and having board protocols around trustee tenure and skills-based selection with staggered retirements aligned to board workflow.

TPR wants boards to actively seek to improve trustee diversity (in its wider sense) and encourages trustees to work with employers to achieve that. It’s a good aim but hard to achieve in schemes that are closed with few active members. Options could include moving towards a smaller board, positioning the trustee role as a development opportunity, encouraging applications in other areas of workforce skills (communications and social media? process and engineering? customer service?) and opening MNT selection to deferreds, with requisite checks and balances on conflicts. 

Or a wider consideration of external expertise can help – a professional trustee, an experienced external MNT (if scheme rules allow), skilled chairman. A specialist as a co-optee on committee work, if not for a trustee role (investment? admin oversight? corporate transactions?), as a further way to fill any gaps. 

TPR also wants boards to evaluate and, ask themselves questions about effectiveness, and use feedback to improve trustee decision making – recognising soft board skills and behaviours need talking about too. This guidance is informed by UK board practice in all sectors outside pensions – TPR has been behind the curve possibly due to the ‘one size fits all’ issue. In practice many of the larger schemes’ board have been doing this for some time and the trend to review is growing strongly, as examples on our portal show. 

Board evaluation with clear objectives in mind is useful as it is more likely to focus on impact rather than process, generate board discussion and identify action on changes that are needed.
Chairs may need support in starting down this track if they or other trustees haven’t done such things in their careers – some trustees may not have had experience of work-based ‘assessment’ at all before this. 

It’s better when the evaluation method doesn’t get stale - questionnaires can get boring to fill in and box ticking will likely result. External input does add value if done well, as part of a cycle. There are plenty of ways to refresh the board’s approach – a cycle over three years is a good idea, as is common in other areas of financial services where change is endemic. For example, in any one year you could look at a specific aspect of board governance such as: scheme strategy, risk and engagement on significant decisions; skills, decision-making and effective behaviours; committee effectiveness and future needs; trustee self-assessment with one-to-one discussion, feedback. You can also spend another year working with individual trustees in more depth, perhaps incorporating aspects of ‘360’ feedback.

Independent review and support to ‘hold the mirror up’, or to update the board’s own assessment questions and facilitate discussion of results are both good ways to refresh, or to start evaluation. 
A review timed around significant change or knotty issues leading to change can work well, such as helping the board to take stock in the year after a change in Trustee Chair, or where the board’s ways of working, and maybe also its composition and succession processes, need to be updated.
 

What do others do?

Trustee selection for skills, knowledge and diversity

These examples illustrate how a plan for selection can be used positively in trustee board appointments.

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We have worked with many clients who take a proactive approach with the employer and with members to selecting and appointing new trustees; to refresh skills, fill identified gaps and increase board diversity.

All use a clear role and person specification setting out the range of skills, competencies and any particular skills or experience it would be helpful for candidates to demonstrate. This includes diversity.

In our first example, the Employer positions company appointed trustee roles as a planned development opportunity for middle to senior managers, liaising with the Trustee chair on skills needs, based on the trustee board’s succession planning work. This helps attract some younger candidates, and more women.

Another client has used selection via an independent panel to shortlist suitable candidates for member-nominated appointments. In this case, there is still an election process, to choose from the shortlist. The selection test is ‘general suitability for the trustee role’ to encourage diversity of background.

Where it is difficult to find active members to appoint, or if skills are in shorter supply, some clients have appointed experienced independent member nominated trustees. Others have extended eligibility to deferred members (with conflicts safeguards) and/ or to more retired members with relevant career skills.

Several clients have used thorough external search processes to appoint independent or professional Chairs, working up a detailed role and person specification, liaising with the Employer as required.

Hearing all voices to help trustees make positive changes

This trustee board had experienced difficulties. We helped them ensure everyone’s voice was heard in planning for changes, to identify better ways of working and governance improvements.

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A sensitive assignment with a trustee board that had experienced a difficult set of circumstances. There was a need to update and clarify roles, and improve relationships, decision-making and ways of working. Some strong areas of governance needed replicating elsewhere in the structure.

One of the powerful ways the trustees did this was through a series of workshops we facilitated for them to ensure that all trustee voices were properly heard.

Outcomes of this work included board compositional change and a code of conduct, with clearer role profiles and an improved training plan. The skills ideally needed in the next Chair and in a specialist committee co-optee were agreed and the search process approved. A revised trustee remuneration policy was researched and implemented.

The committee structure was updated and a framework of responsibilities, delegations and reporting was drawn up, with revised terms of reference flowing from it, to assist decision making and assurance work.

Using board evaluation for trustee development

These trustees updated their independent board evaluation and used the one-to-one meetings with trustees to identify areas of performance, skill and knowledge to strengthen for the work ahead.

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This client asked us to update the board evaluation work we had helped them to carry out previously, to see how things had progressed and identify aspects of performance the board needed to address which would have a beneficial impact on the future governance of the scheme.

Within this work, one-to-one meetings with each trustee were held to review their role and contribution, skills and strengths, and areas of the trustee role, skills and knowledge to develop, in light of the forward strategy for the scheme and the trustee’s business plan. The balance between board and committee work, and their roles within this, were also considered.

A refreshed skills matrix and training plan, personalised with each trustee, and drawn together for the board was one outcome. A more structured approach to decision-making, with timely training, clearer papers and more simply explained advice is another ongoing focus. Greater use of chairing skills in meetings, with trustees better equipped to contribute effectively, is the third important area the board is working on.

A trustee board checking on progress after improving governance

This trustee board illustrates the importance of reviewing that intended changes have been successfully implemented in ways that still work for the future.

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Following on from a governance review, we supported this trustee board with implementation of new practices which required sensitive engagement and a comprehensive review of process documentation.
The result of the changes was a board more focused on strategy and risk oversight, with fewer committees and enhanced delegation to the scheme’s executive team. Trustee and committee business plans, role profiles, terms of references, policies and handbooks were re-drafted.
We also facilitated a self-assessment exercise for the board and pensions team to review progress.

Trustees updating their ways of working and using one-to-ones

This trustee board has worked over a period of three years to improve board governance, using evaluation, review and trustee one-to-ones, with worthwhile results.

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We worked with this pension scheme to develop as a more strategically-focused and nimble board. To help align all trustees to new ways of working, a trustee charter and trustee role profiles were developed to focus on the trustee’s role, particularly in respect of decision making.

Training or “best practice” sessions pertinent to the forthcoming agenda have been implemented to help focus on key strategic outcomes. The trustee board has recently undertaken a facilitated self-assessment to review how well the changes have been embedded and identify further improvements. This has included one-to-one discussion and development planning for each trustee and the board as a whole.

How can we help?

    Trusteeship training – interactive training session

    • Evaluation and assessment for trustees and trustee boards: what is board evaluation and trustee assessment, why is TPR encouraging them, what approaches can be used, the benefits and costs.

    Board skills, decision making and diversity – interactive training or workshop session

    • What impact can good skills have; what would help you use these skills; what can be done differently; next steps
    • Problems that can arise and what to do about them; your own decision examples; the decision process; your future decisions; next steps
    • How diverse is your board – skills and experience, personalities and decision style, background and culture; options to improve what you have and how you use it; practical steps you could take; next steps.

    Board evaluation, board self-assessment, committee reviews and board discussion of results

    • Independent expert review: is your board fit for purpose, how well do you run the scheme, what works well, what changes would help most for the future, how to compare, key things to improve
    • External facilitation of a board’s own self-assessment: to check are we asking ourselves the right questions, what themes and trends emerge from the results, what could we learn from others
    • Experienced facilitation to help trustee boards consider outcomes of an evaluation/review, decide what to take forward, the intended impact of changes, and to agree some next steps
    • We also help trustees review how particular committees are working, what would help to build or sustain effectiveness for changes ahead, facilitate discussion of ideas to agree a way forward.

    Trustee self-assessment, Trustee one-to-ones, adding ‘360’ peer views

    • Performance, skills and training needs and any additional support or other changes that would help for the trustee year ahead
    • Holding conversations with each trustee to talk about their role, governance ideas, skills and development, training needs and contribution to trustee work in the coming year, or supporting the Chair to do this; and reporting back to the board on board skills analysis, gaps and training plans.

    Skills and gap analysis, training plans, succession planning, building trustee role and person specifications

    • Using this to inform the board’s training plan and consider how to fill other gaps, succession needs
    • Discussion with the Chair and/ or the trustee board to reach a landing on gaps and succession needs
    • Drafting role profiles and person specifications for new trustee and chairing appointments, to inform the selection process.

    MNT selection panel

    • Panel member or Chair during the selection process (which might include interviews)
    • Liaison as needed with other Panel members, the Panel’s support team and trustee board Chair.

    Trustee remuneration policy

    • Discussion and fine tuning of the draft policy – typically with a trustee working group or committee
    • Explaining and discussing the recommended policy with the board to walk through its application, leading to board approval and adoption, and any follow up required.

Who to contact

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Barry Mack

I specialise in governance, trustee effectiveness, pension management (including administration) strategy and large change management projects.

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What do you do?

I am a Director of Muse Advisory and specialise in DB & DC pensions, governance (especially funding, investment and risk management), trustee effectiveness, outsourced pensions management, pension management (including administration) strategy and large pension change management projects. I particularly enjoy facilitating trustees to fully articulate their objectives and beliefs and, consequently, to be as effective as they can be.

What is your background?

I’m an actuary and have worked in governance, administration consulting and DC arenas at Mercer and Hymans Robertson. At Hymans Robertson I was a partner, Head of Governance, Risk Group chairman and DC Governance Committee chairman.

What do you bring to Muse?

More than 30 years of financial, pensions and business experience supported with strategic, technical and commercial skill, and a heavy dose of pragmatism.

What do you do for fun?

Bellringing, photography, Lego! And watching F1 with my two (now grown up) sons.

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Julia Land

My expertise is in trustee effectiveness and governance reviews, related work on succession, training, one-to-one feedback and facilitated Trustee workshops e.g. on review actions, on strategic planning. I have worked with over 90 boards in the past few years including many well-known pension schemes and more widely with FTSE companies and non-profit organisations.

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What do you do?

I’m a Senior Adviser at Muse. I work with boards advising on effectiveness and governance development.  Nowadays I focus on pensions organisations and have been doing this type of work with Muse since 2009, mainly with trustee boards of large, complex schemes.

What is your background?

I’ve been advising boards on effectiveness and board development for about 14 years and I’ve worked with a uniquely wide range of around 90 boards: pensions trustee boards, FTSE 100 and 250 plc boards, investment organisations, complex NHS groups, non-profits.

My earlier career was in investment at Deutsche Asset Management and UBS/Warburgs and in finance at Arthur Andersen & Co, in all those roles working closely with client boards.

I hold the PMI Award in Pensions Trusteeship and I’m an ICAEW Fellow. I’m an experienced coach and qualified on leadership development tools such as Myers Briggs.

What do you bring to Muse?

What I aim to bring is listening skills, proportion and a sense of humour.

What do you do for fun?

Mainly revolves around the outdoors, food and music. 

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Lindsay Hawkins

My expertise is in Trustee governance and risk management. I help Trustee Boards and sponsoring employers ensure their governance is top-quality.

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What do you do?

I specialise in outsourced pensions management, trustee governance and effectiveness projects and help Trustees evaluate their executive resource needs.

What is your background?

I’m a Fellow of the Pensions Management Institute and been involved in managing pension funds for almost 20 years. Most recently as Head of Pensions & Benefits for Rexam PLC (a FTSE 100 company recently acquired by a US competitor, Ball Corp). Prior to that I held a pensions management roles in-house for Fujitsu Services and was Pensions Manager for Société Générale Corporate & Investment Bank. Going back even further, I worked in the consulting environment, primarily in outsourced pensions management roles.

What do you bring to Muse?

A lot of practical experience of how to run a pension fund well and get things done. Most of my in-house roles have involved dual aspects being both Head of Pensions/Pensions Manager for the sponsoring employer but also Secretary to the Trustee Board. I therefore understand, in depth, the business drivers for both sides and how to reach solutions which work for everyone. I work best by building good relationships, so enjoy creating teams where everyone understands the pension arrangements’ objectives as well as the strategy for getting there – which really helps Trustee Boards measure success.

What do you do for fun?

It may not be everyone’s idea of fun but my husband and I help out in our local church. Community is important to us both plus it’s great to have lots of friends locally when you lose your keys. Having a desk job means I like to be active whenever I have some free time so I’m a regular at my local gym, I love street dance, weights and yoga - but not all at once. I’ve also been on a lifelong quest to become a wine connoisseur but require much more practice.

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Rosanne Corbett

I specialise in pensions and benefits governance, trustee effectiveness, workshop facilitation, change projects and risk management.

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What do you do?

My work is varied; from trustee board effectiveness reviews, implementation and embedding of risk management frameworks, advising on trustee objectives and long-term strategy and providing executive pensions support on an in-house interim or fully outsourced basis to reviews of the DC market and provider selection exercises, including master trusts. I’ve found being able to implement and embed the advice I provide from working in-house as an interim pensions/ governance manager to be challenging yet very enjoyable. I have provided corporate support in periods of change where no in-house pensions expertise existed and have integrated into existing in-house teams to provide hands-on support for business as usual activities and strategic projects. I have managed large-scale change projects on both sides of the fence, giving me a good perspective on trustee and company drivers and what success looks like.

What is your background?

I have worked in pensions and employee benefits since 1999. The majority of my career to date has been spent advising and supporting trustee boards and companies on good governance and how to manage risk. I started my career as an international employee benefits consultant at Mercer, helping multinational companies design and implement benefit structures. From there I moved to corporate strategy and developed a penchant for governance. I have worked with multinationals to introduce global governance frameworks and review how they manage benefit-related financial and operational risk globally.

From global, I moved to local and became heavily involved in UK-specific pensions and trustee governance and board effectiveness as the Pensions Act 2004 came into force. This then led me in 2010 to Muse Advisory. My passion is really about working with people and making things happen, be that trustees understanding their objectives and implementing a strategy to achieve them, to pension teams being able to deliver an excellent service, working in partnership with their trustee boards and advisers.

What do you bring to Muse?

My get up and go. I am quite a driven person and like to learn new things. I like to bring new ideas to my colleagues, clients and Muse. Mostly, I bring energy and passion - I genuinely love what I do.

What do you do for fun?

I love the outdoors, where you'll find me horse riding or walking my dog. My other passions are amateur astronomy and art, but I never seem to have the time to fit everything in.

I've also spent seven years as vice chair of a school governing body. Being a governor has made me appreciate the time and energy that trustees need to commit to do a good job!

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Ian McQuade

I have 30 years’ experience across pension scheme management and administration, governance, project management and review, selection and implementation work.

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What do you do?

I help our clients run their pension schemes more effectively. That might be leading projects to improve the administration, advisory services, or management of their pension schemes, supporting them in setting the Scheme’s strategy, or just helping them deliver complex projects. As a Director, I also do a lot to promote the business to new prospects and support the day to day management.

What is your background?

There have been three themes to my life in pensions. Firstly, the administration and management of pension schemes – in the dim and distant past I ran the operations for a large Third Party Administrator. Secondly, all things DC – I first got involved in Money Purchase schemes when contracting out was introduced in 1988 so I have seen it grow into Defined Contribution. And finally, Project and Programme Management – I have led all sorts of projects covering administration, valuation and investment aspects of pensions, as well as many wider change and HR projects.

What do you bring to Muse?

A lot of practical experience from having run and been involved in the running of pension schemes, from the very largest in the country to some of the smallest that exist, for over three decades! An ability to engage with stakeholders at all levels, a ‘get-it-done’ attitude, and underneath the playful exterior, a deep understanding of the market. 

What do you do for fun?

It’s not always fun, but I run occasionally, and am one of the legion of MAMILs that plague the countryside. For the uninitiated, that’s Middle Aged Man In Lycra. Sorry for that image! I tend to enjoy the rides up to about 50 miles, but it gets much harder after that. The upside is the lovely countryside, the great company and the fabulous coffee and cakes!

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Muse Advisory helps trustees and companies to better govern and manage their pension schemes. We believe that good governance leads to improved outcomes for members; through better fund performance, effective and proportionate management of risk, value for money and cost efficiencies and strategic and dynamic decision making.

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