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The administration market is continually evolving. Existing clients don’t always receive the latest developments and newest tools, and legislative or other changes can mean that things that worked before no longer work as smoothly as they once did.

Reviewing your TPA prior to contract renewal provides a benchmark against the current market, giving you comfort in your existing provision or leverage in your contract negotiation. It is an opportunity to ensure your services and the fees you are paying reflect what you use now.

We can help you to balance the risks of a TPA transition against the challenges you have, and continue to experience with your TPA, or the opportunities presented elsewhere. We can work with you to identify when might be the right time to consider an administration move, or when to transform your services and invest in your current administration partnership.

Our regular supplier research combined with our vast experience in supporting TPA selection and transformation projects can guide you through your selection exercise. Our insight into the market means we help find the provider who is the best fit for you.

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Muse AdvisoryAnnual Operational Health Assessment

Muse AdvisoryAdministrator Transformation

Case Studies

Transforming Administration

Where there are issues with your administration, working collaboratively with your provider can help to turn the service around. Of course, the administrator needs to be proactive in recognising the faults in the first place!

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Recognising the fault

Our client was experiencing issues with their administration service. They were on a legacy system that wasn’t well integrated, and were being serviced from an office that was experiencing some resource challenges. The provider was distracted and the combination of these factors led the service quality to fall.

The service had become so poor, and the response so inadequate that the client was considering other options in the market.

However, the provider acknowledged their faults and recognised the flaws. They took steps to address them; and quite radical steps given how much easier it is to make promises to improve current services. Instead, they suggested a change of office and a change of system!

We were appointed to support the client in the review of the provider’s proposals and to challenge the provider. Essentially, we were to bring our experience of such exercises to the project and to be a nuisance on our client’s behalf.

Working together

The proposals were sensible, but flawed. We were able to bring our knowledge of administration and practices in the market to help our client and the provider shape a proposal that would meet the needs of both parties.

This included having a robust transition plan to ensure a successful transfer of the services, handover of knowledge and implementation of the new system. All of this to be achieved whilst improving the business as usual administration.

The provider demonstrated a clear commitment to service improvement and working in partnership with our client.

Our client also took the opportunity to review the contract. It was outdated and no longer reflective of the services in place. Again, when it comes to contract, a recognition that the document must be mutually beneficial is important. The relationship needs to be a partnership, or it will struggle to go the distance.

The results

With our input and challenge, the client was able to recommend to the Trustee Board that they remain with the incumbent provider, subject to successful delivery of the project and renegotiation of the contract.

By demonstrating a commitment to rectifying past issues and to maintaining a successful relationship, underpinned by a quality service, the provider was able to rescue a failing relationship.

Clients need to recognise that administration sometimes goes wrong, and providers need to stand up and acknowledge where this has happened. It is how providers react to service failures that can turn a client into the best of advocates.

Key Learnings

  • A key part of saving any failing relationship is recognising your failures in the first place.
  • Working collaboratively to develop a proposal and build a relationship that meets the requirements of both sides it the best way to approach a project.
  • Independent support can help ask the challenging questions on behalf of the client.

Transform or Transition?

Administration is a relationship, not just a service. You cannot have one, without the other! Two of our clients were struggling with their administration. We helped them find a way forward - should they stay or should they go?

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Anything sound familiar?

'Administration is tricky. Errors occur. Mistakes happen. That is the nature of the beast.' This is a message that some have heard from their administrators over the years. But, what if it's not just day-to-day errors? Are there more fundamental issues? Perhaps the transition to your administrator was poor, your data may be unreliable or errors have gone undetected and have compounded.

We have recently worked with two clients in this position. We were appointed to help them find a way forward. Essentially, should they stay or should they go?

Outsourced administration isn't just a service. It's a relationship as well. And in our experience, it seems you cannot have one, without the other!

If it's broke; fix it

There are risks in moving administrator. Not just to the data, but the disruption to members, reputational damage, financial and time costs.

A possible option is to initiate a transformation project to work with the incumbent administrator. The project would encompass the full service and work to bring them into line with trustee expectations and best practice. This is not easy to achieve, and it will depend on the state of the relationship. Fixing the services might not be appropriate if the relationship is lacking trust or commitment.

Counselling required

All relationships rely on trust and when it hits a bump in the road, the question is: can you move on? Our clients had faced issues with their services, and had lost faith in the capabilities of their administrator. However, given the risks of transitioning, it is important that trustees really consider whether the relationship is beyond repair. You can have a strong administration service, but without any trust in what the administrator is doing, the relationship is unlikely to last for long.

A fresh start

So, by way of illustration: one of our clients went to the market. The relationship was irreparable. Another took steps to fix the issues and move forward. What is important is that you don't make a snap decision, but evaluate the options.

If you are facing service issues, the automatic response should not be to move away, but to look at your provider, and yourselves. Truly challenge whether the goals and objectives are correct, whether they are shared between the parties, whether the relationship is open and transparent, and whether you are in a partnership or a one-sided relationship.

Administration will always be susceptible to errors. It's how you, and your administrator respond, that determines whether the relationship it fit for the future and will work.

Key learnings

  • Transforming the service is very difficult and might not be right if the relationship has failed.
  • Before any decision is made, it is important to understand the issues and the challenges from both sides.
  • Taking the time to assess the relationship can help prevent the same mistakes. Assessing where the relationship went wrong, for example poorly understood objectives, will contribute to making the next relationship work in harmony.

What our Clients Say

"We appointed Muse because of their depth and breadth of knowledge of the pension administration market and their independence. Having an adviser who has such level of experience is critical. Muse helped ensure that the Trustees were confident in the decision they took when selecting their third party administrator.

Many implementation projects over-promise and under-deliver. Muse provided expert guidance, alongside our own internal project management function and the third party administrator, to ensure a successful implementation that delivered the planned level of automation from day 1. I would confidently recommend Muse Advisory to other Trustee Boards."

Stephen Boyle, Trustee Director,
RBS Pension Trustee Limited

"We have very much valued working with Muse in a review of our pension administration arrangements. The Muse team was incredibly helpful in helping us prepare for the review, in guiding us through the various assessment stages, and in helping us to get to the right decision for our Schemes. The documentation produced during the process, from the RfP itself, through to the reporting in support of the decision making process, has been first class. I would like to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude for all of the hard work, commitment and support. The Muse team were an absolute delight to work in partnership with, on what could potentially have been a difficult programme."

Yvonne Pearce, Group Head of Pensions & Benefits,
DMGT

Our People

View Profile For Jo Fellowes
View Profile For Jo Fellowes

Jo Fellowes

My expertise spans project and change management, pensions governance, administrator and adviser reviews and data integrity.

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What do you do?

I joined Muse in 2015 as a Senior Associate and became part of the employee team as a Consultant in 2017. My responsibilities and role is varied, which I love. I can find myself supporting a client with an administration provider review at one moment and consulting on pension management effectiveness and Trustee governance the next.

What is your background?

I started my career in the Pensions and Reward industry in 2000, progressing through various roles in administration, project management and client service management. Simultaneously I gained my BSc in Economics and Mathematical Sciences, along with various other vocational qualifications including certificates in natural sciences, interior design and I also became an NVQ assessor.

I have also worked at British American Tobacco as a Pensions Project Manager, with responsibilities across provider management, risk reduction, data rectification, communications and governance. After covering maternity leave for the UK Pensions Manager, I also became involved in HR projects and was later promoted into HR as the UK Talent and Organisation Effectiveness Manager.

Of course during this time I continued to study, completing my MBA and CIPD. I left BAT in 2014 and travelled and volunteered overseas as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, before joining Muse early in 2015.

What do you bring to Muse?

My experience has spanned both provider and in-house management on behalf of Trustee and the employer, giving me insight of the different agendas and challenges facing each. As a life-long learner, I am also adept at assimilating and analysing information quickly. But my real passion lies in helping clients identify, design and implement project and change management solutions.

What do you do for fun?

I absolutely love to travel, explore new places and try new and adventurous activities. My most extreme adventures were tornado chasing in the USA, and a skeleton bob in Lillehammer, although my most recent pursuits are a little less risky and include glider lessons, art classes and cake decorating. I am a runner, albeit perhaps a little too prone to injury, and when I’m fit I also enjoy hiking and generally being outdoors. And of course, I’m still planning on more study!

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View Profile For Damon Lacey
View Profile For Damon Lacey

Damon Lacey

My experience is in outsourced pensions management/ trustee secretarial, trustee governance software, administration and advisor reviews

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What do you do?

I am a Consultant and like to get involved in as much as I can. I work on a range of projects covering governance, administration, adviser reviews, trustee effectiveness, and everything in between!

Internally, I’m responsible for our supplier research and our thought leadership. So, I pen the odd article here and there and send the occasional tweet out into the unsuspecting world.

Outside of Muse, I am a member and Social Committee Chair for the PMI London Group Committee, and a co-opted member of the PMI's Membership and Commercial Development Committee. I am PMI and PRINCE2 qualified.

What is your background?

I started out in Mercer’s administration business, before moving into their Governance, Secretarial and Outsourced Pensions Management team in 2011.

My work has covered a wide variety including communications, MND processes, administration reviews, valuation negotiations, adviser selection and review, and business planning and strategy.

What do you bring to Muse?

Well, apart from my wit (and sarcasm!), my practical experience of administration and governance allows me to speak with clients from the perspective of actually having done the work, and knowing how the overall strategy filters done to the ground level.

Since joining Muse in 2013, I’ve built my knowledge on administration, particularly focusing on costs and contracts. I drafted the PMI’s Key Principles to Administration Agreements, and was involved in The Mercury Project cost comparison survey that we run for large schemes.

What do you do for fun?

I’m currently grappling with the Spanish language and plotting my return to the cockpit of a Piper PA-28. Other than that, you might find me reading, swimming, ambling around London secretly lost but determined not to appear so, or back in Portsmouth being Uncle to 4 exhausting kids.

I am also a School Governor of a new academy school in Kilburn.

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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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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 since 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.

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?

I love to be outdoors which is lucky as my dog is also a fan of fresh air. We are currently being trained in agility, although I think he is mastering it more quickly than I am. We also like to go geocaching; a combination of rambling and treasure hunting. And my husband and I are attempting to tame our allotment and grow our own vegetables.

When I find myself stuck indoors I enjoy cooking (and eating!), knitting and learning French although not necessarily all at the same time.

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