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Are your operations and administration where you want them to be? Sometimes it is hard to take a step back and objectively consider where you are. Our independence allows us to bring fresh perspectives and draw on our client experience to provide that objective assessment of your sustainability and efficiency.

Our insights into market and peer practice can provide a comparison against what others are doing and help identify how you might improve your operations and administration. Do you have the right systems? The right processes? And the right resources?

The role of the pensions manager has changed from what it used to be. There is less resource in in-house departments and the role has moved away from the detail and into contract management. A changing environment can make it challenging to direct resources and skills in the right areas. We have worked with TPAs and in-house departments and this breadth of experience and expertise enables us to consider the structure and strategy that is right for you. We are independent observers, free from politics and focused on achieving the best outcome for you.

Muse AdvisoryOutsourced Administration Reviews

Muse AdvisoryIn-House Administration Reviews

Muse AdvisorySystem Selection

Muse AdvisoryAnnual Operational Health Assessment

Muse AdvisoryOrganisation Design

Muse AdvisoryMercury Project (Cost Survey)

Case Studies

Achieving Balance

There are many clients that have used a system of financial incentives to motivate administration only to find that it does the opposite. Our client wanted a more balanced approach to managing administration.

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Our client was experiencing some issues with their administrator. For justifiable reasons, the administrator was not hitting SLA targets and agreed performance targets. Volumes had spiked, there was significant project activity going on as well. The client was happy with the service, but the performance management framework in the contract was not balanced and was causing issues for the administrator and the client in managing it. The service credits were triggering whilst the overall service was good.

We were appointed to help our client review the performance management and develop a framework that brings more stability and balance to the relationship.

Regaining balance

Our starting point was that the objectives for the service need to be understood. Our client had a clear idea of what these are, but had not considered how these might feed into the management of the relationship. The administration needs to be delivering to the objectives and requirements and the only way to be certain that this is the case is to measure it.

Using the objectives the client had set for the relationship, we proposed a set of potential measures to form a balanced scorecard. A lot of balanced scorecards are not, in fact, all that balanced. They target specific areas of the service, but do not often represent the broad spectrum of activities and areas that are part of administration.

Part of our role was to challenge the way the client thought about managing their administration. We helped them to agree the four quadrants and overarching principles that would form their balanced scorecard and a set of measures, with clear definitions, against which to measure the administration.

Maintaining equilibrium

The service credits will no longer apply and our client now has a pragmatic, and balanced, framework that can help them to judge if the service is delivering what they want and need it to deliver. Importantly, the balanced scorecard is not set in stone. They can change and adapt as the service and relationship evolves.

From the administrator’s perspective, they are now being monitored in a way that accounts for the fluctuations of an administration service. Not only will they be monitoring traditional SLAs but there will be a regular discussion and metrics on key processes, technology, people, continuous improvement etc.

We helped our client put in place a firm footing from which to move forward with their administration partner.

 Key learnings

  • Balanced scorecards need to bring a broad range of measures together to achieve the “balance” they are designed to create. All too often, they are heavily focused on a particular aspect of delivery.
  • Administration requires objectives. It is not just about paying benefits, but how the scheme evolves, what that means for the administration and for the members and how the Trustee wants to approach the administration of the pension scheme. Objectives and performance measures need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they continue to reflect your priorities and the changing circumstances of the pension scheme.

Resourcing the Pensions Department

Our client asked us to conduct a benchmarking exercise investigating in-house company pension teams. During a series of interviews, 10 companies shared their current resourcing structures, activities, challenges and drivers.

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How do you know if you are resourced effectively?

Our client asked us to conduct a benchmarking exercise investigating in-house company pension teams. During a series of interviews, 10 companies shared their current resourcing structures, activities, challenges and drivers.

We gained valuable insights covering schemes with a membership range of 15,000 to 130,000 and scheme assets from £1.5bn to £10bn (with other clients, the schemes approached have been smaller as they have to be relevant to the client's scheme size). We openly and confidentially discussed how their pension teams are resourced, what drives their decisions and the challenges they face in a continually changing environment.

Same challenges, different answers

Pensions departments face a number of challenges and influencers. Some are common and familiar: complexity of benefit design and investment strategy, and pensions within a total reward strategy.

It is those that are less familiar and only now growing in prominence that challenge accepted roles and structures. For example, the level of member engagement, Trustee and corporate approaches to governance, de-risking journey plans, data issues, liability management exercises, auto-enrolment and the increasing importance of a strong communications strategy.

We also noted significant changes in the demands on pensions departments and the skill sets required to meet them. The pensions team is increasingly expected to be involved in strategic and journey planning.

No two pensions departments are alike and each is rising to these challenges in their own way.

New skills

There is an increasing need for specialist skills within the team. Financial controls and investment expertise are becoming highly valued skills. Relationship management is fast becoming a ‘must-have', including contract management and facilitation skills as well as the ability to balance the demands of a number of stakeholders.

Working in such a rapidly changing environment is arguably having the most noticeable impact on the role played by the Pensions Manager and the skills required to fulfil that role effectively. It is commonly asserted that the role of the Pensions Manager is evolving, but the big question is ‘Will the role exist in ten years, and if the answer is yes, what will it look like?'!

Everybody knows that one size does not fit all...

It goes without saying that there is no universally applicable solution or magic formula, but neither is there a widely-accepted starting point. It is crucial that companies develop the solution that best fits their circumstances and culture and make sure it is adaptable to changes.

Given likely resource and headcount constraints, the changing requirements and the increasing conflicts, a number of companies are reviewing their resourcing against the challenges they face, the demands on their team and the priorities of all stakeholders.

Key learnings

  • Evolution of the Pensions Manager role is driven by an increasing demand for new skills to confront the challenges now facing sponsoring employers and Trustee Boards of pension schemes.
  • In facing these challenges, Pensions departments are finding different answers.
  • There is no easily identifiable key driver of change or solution. It is important to consider resourcing within the full context.
  • It is crucial to find the solution that fits your circumstances best. Priorities should be determined with input from key stakeholders.

What our Clients Say

"Muse continue to provide excellent independent support to us and their clients. Their operating model provides a refreshing change: quality, independently minded people who are good at what they do. Muse know where they want to operate and continually seek to take new ideas into those areas. Muse continue to punch above their weight."

Andy Rowell, Head of Trustee Services,

"Muse bring a helpful and experienced objectivity to projects which helps guide the Trustee Board through some important decision making with pace."

Lynn Collins, Former Head of Marks and Spencer Pension Trust,
Marks & Spencer Pension Trust Limited

Our People

View Profile For Ian McQuade
View Profile For Ian McQuade

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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View Profile For Karen Cadman
View Profile For Karen Cadman

Karen Cadman

My specialities are pension scheme management, administration reviews and managing change projects.

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What do you do?

I joined Muse as a Senior Associate in 2012, and have focused on administration-related projects, supporting Trustees through important change. Specifically I have project managed administration selection and transition projects as well as supporting a large data rectification exercise.  I have also worked with clients seeking to review and improve the service from their administrator.

In addition to managing a range of stakeholders (and personalities!) and work-streams, my role has been to provide challenge and guidance throughout the projects.

What is your background?

I started my pensions life as an administrator in the pre-Maxwell, pre-computerised 1980s. Since then, I have worked as a Pensions Manager supporting schemes through significant change, including in-sourcing, changing administration systems and introducing new schemes.

Before joining Muse I was working in the Cabinet Office as Head of Civil Service Pensions, setting up new governance arrangements and then leading the client side of the move to a mutual joint venture for administration.

What do you bring to Muse?

I've been a client, and I worked with consultants. I bring the different view from that side of the fence, and can see things from the client's perspective.

I also bring a combination of calm common sense and humour to my work. Well, at least, I like to think so! Anyway, there's always my love of spreadsheets, which comes in handy.

What do you do for fun?

Wherever possible, outside of work you’re likely to find me outdoors.  As well as growing our own vegetables we are about to embark on beekeeping and are rapidly realising how much there is to learn about this.  Not being a fan of the gym, my formal exercise takes the form of Tai Chi, which is harder than it looks.  Informal exercise consists of tramping through the countryside in all weathers, accompanied by the dog.

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View Profile For Mark Dallaway
View Profile For Mark Dallaway

Mark Dallaway

I specialise in administration effectiveness and strategy reviews, provider and technology selection, contract negotiation, implementation project facilitation and management.

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What do you do?

I specialise in advising clients on pension administration effectiveness, strategy and governance. As part of this I help clients to assess administration issues and options, select providers, review pension operational capabilities and technology options, and in the management and oversight of implementing change.

What is your background?

I spent about 12 years in in-house pension management; initially in administration but broadening into technology, trustee secretarial and scheme management. Part of my time in this area was spent specifying and implementing highly automated internally developed pension systems including solutions for the early days of DC - I still bear the scars!

This experience led me to a role with a pension software house with responsibility for client and implementation management and product development. It was my first commercial role which was a shock to the system but from which I learnt a great deal.

The combination of my earlier roles gave me the skills and experience to work in the areas I now specialise in. I have worked as a senior consultant with Mercer, as Director of PWC’s pension management consulting practice and in client management at Hewitt with responsibility for the commercial relationships and service delivery for some of their largest outsourcing clients.

What do you bring to Muse?

I would like to think I bring a bit of humour (!), alongside broad experience and a pragmatic approach. I have a good understanding of both client and supplier perspectives from my ‘game-keeper, turned poacher’ background and I am analytical in my approach, using this to focus on what really matters in any project or administration-related issue.

What do you do for fun?

I am regularly pulled around the countryside by a very energetic chocolate Labrador, often grasping my camera and attempting to improve my photography. I am a keen follower of a number of sports including rugby union, motor sport and football (though some would say Birmingham City FC don’t really fit this description!).

I have a wide taste in music, love to read, mainly espionage and British history, and I also play a bit of chess now and again, but since one of my oldest friends is a Grand Master I am all too aware of my woeful capabilities at the board! To ensure I do have fun, I avoid anything to do with DIY, much to my wife’s relief!

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