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Having clear objectives for your suppliers is critical to judge how well they are performing. We support the setting of a clear strategy, supporting objectives and roles and responsibilities for your scheme, so that all suppliers understand what is expected of them and how performance will be measured.

How can you tell if you are getting the best possible service from your suppliers for the budget that you are willing to spend? An independent assessment of the service which can consider both qualitative and quantitative aspects, as well as looking at value for money, can help identify areas for improvement across all parties involved.

Undertaking a full market review can be a daunting process. We bring our broad knowledge of the market place and potential suppliers to the selection exercises, helping our clients make confident decisions about the suppliers they wish to partner with. In a world of gate keepers and ringmasters, we are facilitators helping you build relationships that can stand the test of time.

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Case Studies

Choosing your Covenant Adviser

Our client found themselves needing to select a new Covenant Adviser but feeling unsure of how to go about it and unaware of what was on offer in the market.

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Conflicted advice

Our client’s covenant provider had just been appointed to provide advice to the sponsoring employer. The Trustee were not happy with the potential conflicts in this and decided it was time to change. The Trustee and the executive support team had limited knowledge of the market for covenant advice, and wanted someone to guide them through the process, make sure they were seeing the right advisers, asking the right questions and avoiding the sales and marketing that can so often obfuscate the realities of working with an adviser.

We were appointed because we can help our clients make a good decision, supported by a process that elicits the information they need to make that decision.

The selection begins

The first step was to help our client understand the market and the options available. We helped them obtain relevant information, not the standard marketing brochures that they received after direct approaches, and segmented the market for them. Broadly, there are the specialists, the consultancies and the large accounting firms. By providing our insights and knowledge of each, we helped the client select the shortlist of firms that represented the best likely match for them.

Through discussion about the market and the providers, we were also able to draw out the elements that were particularly important to the Trustee. This formed the basis of the selection criteria and requirements against which providers would be judged. In this instance, it was an understanding of regulated markets that would set them apart.

A request for proposal was issued, and the responses analysed. This is an area where clients find our input most valuable. We read the responses and provide a summary, which highlights the key strengths and weaknesses of the responses, but also brings our insights and perspectives from outside of the material that has been provided. For example, how does covenant advice fit within Integrated Risk Management.

Next, presentations were held. Surprisingly, the presentations were generally weak, perhaps the market is not used to presenting against the sort of brief that we provided. We want to make sure that our clients see their potential providers in a meeting scenario, so presentation briefings focus more on these attributes and aspects, rather than letting providers drive the agenda, accentuate the positive and gloss over the weaker areas. 

Decision time

Our process enabled the Trustee to determine the right provider for them, in terms of the services being provided, their understanding of the client and regulated markets, but, perhaps most importantly, the way they would work with the client.

The thinking and discussion that goes into the requirements, shortlisting and criteria mean that bidders have a much clearer idea of what is wanted from them, and the client receives responses that are geared to what they need.

Key learnings

  • Our market commentary provides some insight that clients find useful. We have a full understanding of what they do, and how it fits within Integrated Risk Management and regulatory requirements.
  • Putting the effort in at the start of the process, in defining requirements, considering the shortlist and the selection criteria, can reap rewards later in the process.
  • Issuing a presentation brief to providers helps to make the most of the time spent with them and avoid a glossy sales pitch.

Reviewing Full Services

After a long relationship with their provider, our client had decided it was time to consider their options. There were some cracks appearing, but they were not aware of what the market was offering: that's where we came in.

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Relationship trouble

Our client had been with their full services provider for over 15 years and enjoyed, on the whole, a good relationship. However, more recently some strains had started to appear and frustrations were building. The Trustee began to feel that they were not hearing the best thinking on investments and funding. They were concerned that fees were no longer competitive and that they were not an important client.

The problem our client faced was in knowing how to address these issues and what was available in the market after 15 years of development and change. That is why we were appointed: to bring the Trustee up to speed with the latest offerings and find a provider that would bring fresh views and work well with the trustee.

Broadening horizons

We facilitated a discussion on the service requirements, which helped the Trustee identify specific issues and focus on how they liked to work with their adviser, and how the relationship should work. We were able to challenge the existing ways of working and help them start afresh.

We then managed the selection process. We approached a broad range of firms to ensure the client saw the full spectrum of offerings in the market and options for their future relationship.

For us, selecting a new adviser is about the relationships between client and provider. Our role is to ensure that there are opportunities to build relationships, see what the provider would be like to work with and ensure that the Trustee are satisfied that a provider can meet their requirements. To do this, we held a series of calls with candidates and issued an RfP, we facilitated a decision based on that initial contact with providers and progressed on to presentations.

Presentation is a bit of a misnomer. It is important that the client and any potential provider work well together and have a similar culture. Therefore, our approach was to run a mock trustee meeting. We set a scenario agenda that covered the full range of services, allowing candidates to approach as they would at a real meeting.

It was interesting for the Trustees to see the range of approaches that were taken and to hear some, essentially, free advice! It gave a good feel for what the relationship would be like and how well the two parties would gel in practice.

A Brighter Future

The Trustees were surprised by what they saw: electronic governance software, asset-liability modellers and transactional member websites! The Trustees were not receiving any of these and had some eye-opening discussions with the providers on funding, investment and integrated risk management approaches.

The Trustee found themselves in a bit of a bind: two strong candidates and a split vote for the preferred candidate! From our point of view, this was fantastic news. It was great to know that we had found two providers that were such a good match as to make the decision impossible.

However, a decision was reached and a new provider was appointed.

Key learnings

  • It is important to regularly take stock of your relationship with advisers and ensure that you are seeing the best of what they can offer. This is particularly necessary where you are receiving full services, so do not have any readily available point of comparison.
  • The market is competitive, but the tools and technology are similar with advantages and disadvantages to each provider’s offering. The focus of a market review should be on relationships and working together, and not give undue weight to the flashy tools that providers might choose to emphasise. 
  • Having a clear set of requirements and an idea of your preferred ways of working can help inform the shortlist and the criteria by which a decision can ultimately be made.

What our Clients Say

"We appointed Muse through a competitive tender to support our actuarial selection process as a result of the thoroughness of their approach, their deep knowledge of the market and value for money. Their support was invaluable in helping us to concentrate on what would make the difference for us from our Actuary so that we could make the selection from some very strong candidates. The team was flexible and approachable; they managed the project for us professionally to ensure that the candidate firms were well briefed and engaged with the project. Muse played an important part in enabling us to select a firm best suited to our requirements and ways of working."

Richard Raggett, Trustee Secretary,
States of Jersey Pension Schemes

"Muse were able to understand the different styles and requirements of our two Trustee Boards and guide them both through a process, which resulted in a robust decision having carefully considered the right sort of provider and the requirements of the service. Their insights into the market and broad understanding of the part covenant advice plays in integrated risk management was invaluable in evaluating the market, and their facilitated process helped maximise effective use of pensions staff and trustee time."

Kate Fraser, Pensions Operations Manager,
ScottishPower and Manweb Pension Schemes

Muse Advisory supported the Trustees through the process of reviewing their full service pension provider. They provided the subject matter expertise, and worked seamlessly alongside our in-house procurement team, to help us identify a high quality solution that met both our technical and commercial requirements, delivering great value for the scheme and members, as well as the sponsor.

Andy Gladwin, Group Financial Controller,

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, governance or management of their pension schemes, supporting them in setting the Scheme’s strategy, or just helping them deliver complex projects. As CEO of the business, I also do a lot to promote the business in the industry and to new prospects and lead 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 and strategic 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 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 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 Senior 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. 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 a range of different projects. My main focus has been administration reviews, selections and transitions and adviser reviews, but I have also worked with clients on governance and trustee effectiveness.

I oversee our comprehensive supplier research programme and our thought leadership, making sure that we bring our best thinking to our clients and the wider industry.

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 Development Committee. I am APMI and PRINCE2 qualified and am now working through an MBA.

What is your background?

I started out as a pensions administrator, before moving into their Trustee Executive Services team with Mercer where I provided outsourced pensions management, project management and secretarial support to clients.

My background has shown me a wide variety of projects and issues and given me a decent technical grounding having once sat and calculated pensions! 

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 down to the ground level.

Since joining Muse, I’ve built expertise on administration and the administration market. I drafted the PMI’s Key Principles to Administration Agreements, and lead on our triennial cost comparison survey, The Mercury Project.

What do you do for fun?

I’m currently grappling with the Portuguese language, having managed a reasonable level in Spanish. Other than that, you might find me reading, swimming, running or back in Portsmouth being Uncle to 6 exhausting kids.

I am Chair of Governors at a primary school in Kilburn, a charity Trustee for a local charity and foster cats for a local animal shelter.

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View Profile For Rosanne Corbett
View Profile For Rosanne Corbett

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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