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Can you prove that your DC scheme is delivering value to the members and the sponsor? We can help support the setting of a clear strategy for the scheme, supporting objectives, and roles and responsibilities.

The Government and the Pensions Regulator have raised expectations for DC governance with both the Pension Schemes Bill and the DC Code and Guidance. We have worked with many schemes to help them demonstrate how they are meeting or exceeding these requirements.

Ignorance of the governance requirements is no longer acceptable and the Pensions Regulator is clamping down on schemes that don’t meet their expectations. We have helped schemes with the transition away from the existing arrangement such that those requirements are fulfilled by someone else. We can help you ensure that there is clarity about what each party involved in the scheme expects to be delivered and how the performance will be measured.

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Case Studies

Moving to a Master Trust

Rosanne helped our client who had reviewed their DC arrangements and decided that a Master Trust might be right for them. But they needed our support and independence to test the waters.

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The challenge

The company had recently undertaken a strategic review of its DC arrangements and concluded that there were efficiencies to be made in the DC running costs. A Master Trust might provide the most cost efficient means of providing the DC benefits, but as their DC adviser also runs a Master Trust, the company recognised that the adviser would be conflicted.

We were appointed as a result of our independence and ability to objectively assess and comment on the market, as well as helping to capture our client’s requirements. We led an independent review of options, which subsequently developed into a selection exercise, once it became clear that a Master Trust was most appropriate for the company.

The approach

We developed a request for proposal (RfP) built around the company’s requirements for cutting costs, reducing the governance burden and providing all its DC arrangements under one umbrella. Working with the company, we short-listed a selection of five different Master Trust providers (covering different approaches) and asked them for a response. Based on these responses, we were able to choose three providers that could best meet the company’s requirements.

Having decided that a Master Trust was the best option, the client agreed to proceed with a selection exercise. We then developed a more detailed RfP focusing on the investment product, services to members, transition costs and implementation process. Each provider was given the opportunity to meet the company and ask questions about its requirements. We summarised the responses for the company focusing on what was most important to make a decision and providing independent commentary. The providers presented their propositions to the company in a day of face to face meetings. The company assessed each provider using a selection criteria matrix, prepared by Muse, with criteria weighted by importance.

Following the presentations, it became clear that one of the providers could be discounted leaving the choice between one of two providers. As each provider offered a good product, with good service, at a competitive price, we were asked to build a business case for each to aid the company’s decision making.

The business case set out a side-by-side comparison of the costs to move to a Master Trust for the company and members, and the value that could be added to members through the investment strategy, administration, communications strategy, guidance/ advice and options for members to take their benefits flexibly at retirement.

The outcome

The Master Trust providers were compared in light of their services, product and value to the company and members. A conclusion was made to move the DC arrangements to the provider that the company felt would best meet its and the members’ needs.

The Master Trust market is laden with conflicts, and it is often the case that advisers could move their client into their own Master Trust solution. This might be an easy option, but not necessarily the right one for members.

We were able to support our client, provide an independent assessment of the Master Trust market, and help them make an appropriate decision. We have no commercial ties or vested interests with any supplier, and our objective input was invaluable in helping the client reach a decision.

Key learnings

  • The Master Trust market is rapidly developing. A time will come for consolidation. It is important to know that assets are secure and that discontinuance and exit provisions are clearly understood.
  • Costs vary by provider and can include AMCs, monthly administration charges, implementation fees, annual governance charges, at-retirement costs to members and advice charges. Be clear on all the costs and extra charges before making the decision to move to a Master Trust.
  • New providers are coming to an already saturated market and are unknown in respect of their quality and capabilities, and their ability to achieve scale. Consider all the risks.
  • Understand the member experience and how the provider will engage and educate members on your behalf and the additional costs to tailor communications.
  • Be comfortable in the governance structure and independence of the Master Trust’s Trustee Board.

What is the right DC scheme for you?

The sponsor’s governance committee wanted to consider their DC provision and asked us to support them through the process. We talked them through their options and find potential solutions.

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The challenge

The sponsor had put in place a contract based scheme early in the 2000s, and had changed provider in 2007. As the scheme had grown and become the main scheme for employees, and the governance committee had taken a more active role in the scheme, it was becoming clear that the solution was not matching the needs of the sponsor nor the scheme members.

They had been speaking to existing advisers, that weren’t independent from a potential solution, and the advice they were getting would vary and was open to conflict. Should they stick with a contract based scheme as the right solution for the future, or should they consider switching to a Master Trust, or even setting up their own Trust based scheme on either a bundled or unbundled basis?

Muse was appointed to support the review as a result of our independence from the potential solutions – we were able to comment on the merits and drawbacks of each approach, as opposed to focusing on the one that allows us to recommend our own solution.

The approach

We suggested running a workshop that included both sponsor and governance committee representatives to consider the options available to them. In advance we shared key information about each of the options, as well as a number of questions for the attendees to consider. The aim was to capture and agree the objectives for the pension scheme. What would make the scheme a success for the sponsor, and what additional objectives would make the scheme successful from a member’s point of view?

The outcome

The workshop was a great opportunity for all parties to share their views and whilst, as always in these meetings, there were some disagreements, a common ground was found, and a set of objectives was agreed. Each of the options was considered against the objectives, and the conclusion as to the right type of arrangement was made.

Key learnings

  • Beware the conflicts of interest in the DC space. It is likely that at least one of your existing advisers can ‘take the problem away’, but if it is not the right solution, then your problems could multiply.
  • The differences between contract-based and trust-based schemes are diminishing. Governance requirements for contract-based schemes are rightly increasing, but they are also increasingly flexible, meaning the need to have an own-trust solution is reducing.
  • An agreed set of objectives that capture both the sponsor and member needs, can help direct you to the single solution that works best for all.

What our Clients Say

"Knowing that commercial links may exist between some consultants and pension service providers, it was Muse’s clear independence that made the difference for us. Firstly, they helped us to consider the different types of DC scheme available, without having a particular product that they were looking to sell. On the second occasion, we were considering Fiduciary Management. Muse helped us understand the pros and cons of Fiduciary Management compared with our current service. Whilst we didn’t move to Fiduciary Management, we did make changes to the way that we work with our appointed investment consultant."

Richard Neville, Group Head of HR,
Drax Group Plc

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 or management of their pension schemes, supporting them in setting the Company or 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 getting on for 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 am one of the legion of MAMILs that plague the countryside at weekends. For the uninitiated, that’s Middle Aged Man In Lycra. Sorry for that image! I tend to enjoy the rides up to about 65 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 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 effectiveness reviews, facilitated workshops and risk management to reviews of the DC market and provider selection exercises. Managing projects is something I like to do and I have managed them on both sides of the fence, which gives me a good perspective on what clients want.

What is your background?

I became an international employee benefits consultant with Mercer in 1999. My language skills were useful, having lived in Germany. I helped multinational companies design and implement their employee benefit structures, choose the right providers and communicate with employees. I have led benefit audits, multinational pooling implementation and global governance and risk management projects.

From global, I moved to local and became heavily involved in UK-specific pensions and trustee governance as the Pensions Act 2004 came into force.

What do you bring to Muse?

My get up and go. A former colleague once described me as a “completer finisher”, someone to depend on to get the job done. I am a perfectionist in nature and if I’m doing something, I will do it to the best of my ability and make sure it meets, and ideally exceeds, expectations. I have a thirst for learning (I’m doing a physics degree in my spare time) which means I like to challenge and push the boundaries.

What do you do for fun?

I love the outdoors. In the day time, you might find me horse riding, walking my dog and trying to entice my children to come along. My passion is amateur astronomy, so at night, I’ll be found in the garden, eyes glued to the sky.

I love art and have dabbled at Chelsea School of Art only to realise that my enjoyment lies in painting for pleasure. I'm also vice chair of the governing body of a school. 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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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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