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Effective investment governance is a critical performance driver for a pension scheme if it is to meet its strategic objectives. Our independence enables us to help you determine the investment governance model that is right for you.

We have broad experience in helping schemes of all sizes understand the drivers for what works well and where improvements can be made. Those drivers could be people, process, structure, delegations or everything in between. We can identify gaps to help you achieve clearly-defined success measures so you know where you are going and be confident that your investment strategy will get you there in the quickest and most cost-effective way possible.

Trustee Boards have varying degrees of investment expertise and rely on advisers differently. We can help you understand your risk appetite and the levels of delegation which gets best use out of the skills available.

We challenge embedded thinking and as independents have ‘no skin in the game’ so are driven only by finding the best solution for you.

Muse AdvisoryGovernance Review and Implementation

Muse AdvisoryFiduciary Manager

Muse AdvisoryInvestment Consultant

Case Studies

Getting from A to B: Investment Governance

We worked with two clients on similarly journeys with their investment governance. We helped them along their routes to different destinations.

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Different pension schemes – different destinations

Recently we supported two clients to change their investment advisory arrangements. Both shared a similar goal in wanting to discharge their fiduciary responsibilities as effectively as they could, but both had different ideas about how to achieve this.

These were two separate clients, two separate projects, however Muse was chosen to work with these trustees in both cases for the same reasons. Both clients knew we had strong technical investment insight, good practical experience of a wide range of schemes and governance arrangements and a thorough understanding of the type of advice available from firms in the marketplace.

We were also appointed because it was clear that we had no preconceived views as to the outcome of our work and that we would support the trustees to deliver a solution which was aligned to their requirements; it was fully understood that the decisions to be made were largely about governance.

Be prepared for the journey

During the project initiation phase our role is to make sure that the client is well prepared to reach their planned destination. We worked closely with the client to get to the know the scheme, its strategy and objectives, work done to date and current arrangements. In effect, we worked through a travel checklist to confirm the group was ready to start their investment journey.

Common items which can be ‘left behind’ in investment and funding planning include asset allocation focus, LDI, risk management and a lack of shared clarity of the ultimate journey objectives. These are topics which often elicit strong views and plenty of debate. It is not our role as governance advisers to dictate a fixed position in these areas, many of which are of course the remit of, and best managed by, your investment adviser. It is worthwhile to take time to check that the group has a common understanding and is signed up to work together towards a common goal. This initial work is done collaboratively: we facilitate challenging and constructive debate and settle on some guidelines which can be shared during the service tender.

The route

Success in the first steps for us means that the trustees can select the best investment advisor or fiduciary manager to deliver the requirements of their pension scheme and have a framework against which to measure success. This is best achieved when work has been done to document what exactly the trustee requires and the scheme specific circumstances and constraints. The selection exercise can then be targetted to these specific areas. Articulating your key investment beliefs and advice requirements puts you in a much better position to select a team of advisers who can meet these. It doesn’t mean that these requirements won’t change over time, but this is a journey you will take together from a strong starting point.

As we know, the market for firms providing investment advice is sizable. Trustees need to get into the detail of their requirements to make sure that they partner with the right firm and secure the best advice. We see schemes that run well under both traditional and fiduciary arrangements, or indeed a blend of both with advisers acting with a degree of delegation. What they have in common is that they can track that they are progressing effectively in the agreed direction.

For these two pensions scheme clients, we supported both clients in articulating a vision of how their investment arrangements would work most effectively during the medium to long term. This included what skills, capability, expertise and services they would require to get them where they wanted to go – from A to B. Albeit through very different approaches, one taking fiduciary management and one following the traditional advisory route.

Key learnings

  • Traditional investment advisory and fiduciary management appointments are valid solutions with a place in the market. It depends which is right for you.
  • Trustees should monitor whether the outcome of the CMA review provides clarity on how to navigate the investment advisory terrain and potential conflicts of interest.
  • It remains important that pension schemes get into gear and continue to be active in fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities.
  • We encourage trustees to take time out to plan for their journey, even if there is no plan to review advisor or governance arrangements, make time for a session on investment objectives or investment beliefs during the scheme year ahead.

Outsourcing Investments

Our client had an in-house investment team and wanted to consider the options for providing these services going forward. Our role was to facilitate this decision and help the Trustee consider the best way forward.

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Deciding to outsource

Our client had an in-house investment team including provision of investment advice and some direct investment management and was on a journey towards a greater level of outsourcing. However, they didn’t know how they should approach the range of options for outsourcing, in pursuing their objective to further derisk the scheme.

They wanted independent expert advice on the outsourcing options available and on how they could get from their current approach to a new way of working. They knew it would be important not to lose aspects of governance and Trustee/Company engagement that were working well, so that all the main stakeholders could coalesce around an agreed way forward.

Our client recognised that outsourcing presented an opportunity to reconsider their requirements and governance approach: What was working well? Where did they need to improve? What challenges were they now facing? What were other schemes doing? How could each option help and which was best?

We were appointed to help facilitate this review. In approaching and conducting the review we did not lead the witness. Our client felt that we listened carefully to their views and did not approach the exercise with a rigid set of options and a foregone conclusion.

They told us our successful approach was founded on excellent interview, reporting and discussion skills, in our ability to make relevant challenge and bring in expert subject knowledge, and to help them reach practical conclusions that could be implemented at the required pace.

Considering the options

We interviewed key stakeholders from both the Company and Trustee and also the Scheme Actuary to make sure that we were getting rounded and representative views. This also gave us rounded insights into the future requirements, the priorities, and how each party experienced the current investment governance model. For example, a focus of the Company was to reduce the volatility of pension fund risk on its balance sheet.

As well as views on technical options and models, the interviews gave us insights into the investment governance and ways of working. Governance is as much about culture, personalities and behaviours, about how people work together, as it is about dry process. So, the interviews were a window into what worked well, what would need to be different in a future model, and what needed clarifying or fixing.

We think the main skill with interviews is creating a non-judgmental environment in which people with different experience and backgrounds are comfortable in being candid and open with their views and concerns. It takes thorough preparation, good inter-personal skills and a willingness to put ourselves into the client’s shoes. We were able to quickly build trust with individuals and have a positive conversation so that our findings and recommendations could be positioned realistically and presented on a ‘no surprises’ basis.

Making the decision

The focus of our review had been to consider the options available to our client following the decision to outsource their internal investment team. We considered this and what, in our view, the client would require from their investment model going forward. Our findings considered the range of options available, which we thought most suitable and why, and how they could over time move to the new basis, and possibly refine it further in future.

We presented out findings to the Trustee and included some observations on their governance: for example, the need for clarity on how strategic issues were being addressed and changes to the internal governance structure which would be beneficial.

The Trustee thought our report was honest and didn’t “pull any punches” – reflecting the benefit of our independence and our focus on the specific project objectives, not on future consulting opportunities.

Key learnings

  • It is important to genuinely listen and avoid entering a governance exercise with a foregone conclusion in mind;
  • The perspectives of all stakeholders are important to bring in with an independent mindset, in ways that respect but do not inadvertently promote historical positions;
  • Tough messages occasionally need to be delivered, but this can be done in a constructive way. External facilitation can help achieve this and reduce problematic attachments to particular positions;
  • Whilst the ultimate goal might be a fully outsourced model it is important not to over-reach on change management with the resources that may be currently available; consider how existing gaps might be filled and think about what intermediary steps might be needed to get there over time.

What our Clients Say

“Muse helped us to agree a future investment governance model appropriate for our organisation. They have deep knowledge of the advisory and fiduciary management market and we were impressed with how well they listened to all views, helped us consider all the options and, importantly, obtain buy in from all key stakeholders.”

Paul Richardson, Chair of Trustees,
Reed Elsevier Pension Trustee Limited

"With the support of Muse's professional team our recent FM selection project delivered as expected and so much more. Muse was able to translate our scheme's unique characteristics and ambitions in to specific and practical service requirements. This meant that we were able to select the best fit provider; a firm who then already understood us and was well matched to our scheme's requirements."

Peter Beange, Chair of Trustees,
Northrop Grumman UK Pension Scheme

Our People

View Profile For Barry Mack
View Profile For Barry Mack

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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View Profile For Chris Fagan
View Profile For Chris Fagan

Chris Fagan

I specialise in helping clients put in place suitable investment governance arrangements which are consistent with their resources, preferred operating model and objectives. 

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What do you do? 

I am an Associate Director at Muse. I specialise in helping clients ensure that they have investment governance arrangements that are consistent with their resources, preferred operating model and objectives. I also work on Muse's ongoing research in to investment providers and different investment implementation models.

What is your background? 

I have worked in the pensions industry for more than 25 years as an investment specialist. During that time I have:

  • managed the investment portfolio for a major UK defined benefit plan
  • worked as an investment consultant, providing investment advice on all aspects of strategy and implementation for DB and DC schemes 
  • helped to develop, market and deliver a fiduciary management service 

I have also been a trustee and investment committee member of a UK scheme with DB and DC sections.

Outside of working with Muse, I am about to start working as a trustee of a charity that supports young adults with learning difficulties and I am building a small portfolio of specialist roles in the pensions industry. 

What do you bring to Muse? 

Practical experience of advising on and running investment arrangements for pension schemes. I have covered all aspects of investment governance and implementation from multiple perspectives and therefore have a detailed understanding of the demands on trustees and plan sponsors. I am able to build trust with stakeholders of all types and at all levels to help develop appropriate governance and, ultimately, improve investment outcomes.  

What do you do for fun? 

I live in Sussex in the heart of an area that consistently produces award winning sparkling wine; I am a member of a small vineyard run as a cooperative where I look after several rows of vines and enjoy the end product!  I travel abroad to scuba dive when I can, work with a local charity, play bridge and try to keep up with my now grown up children.

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View Profile For Anne Kershaw
View Profile For Anne Kershaw

Anne Kershaw

My areas of specialism include investment governance advice and adviser reviews.

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What do you do?

I am an Associate Director of Muse Advisory, specialising in investment governance advice and adviser reviews.

What is your background?

Following an Applied Mathematics degree from St Andrews University, I trained as an actuary with Duncan C. Fraser, which was eventually acquired by Mercer. I worked for Mercer in four locations in various roles; I was a Scheme Actuary for many years but ended up leading Mercer’s Scottish investment practice in Edinburgh where I now live.

Outside of Muse, I am an independent trustee of a large DB scheme and a not so large Mastertrust. I am also on the board of a local charity in Edinburgh.

What do you bring to Muse?

I bring a career’s worth of experience of advising trustees and sponsoring employers of typically large, DB pension schemes on actuarial and investment matters. As such I understand what a well governed scheme looks like and can help trustees improve the way their schemes are managed, including effective use of advisers.

What do you do for fun?

I am very keen on sport and generally keeping fit. I play average squash and tennis, and rather below average golf as well as keeping fit by swimming and running regularly. I also enjoy trips to the theatre and cinema with friends and socialising with family.

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View Profile For Emma Beard
View Profile For Emma Beard

Emma Beard

I specialise in adviser review and selection, trustee board and committee effectiveness, pension department and Trustee Board resourcing and pensions management.

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What do you do?

As a Consultant I work as part of the project teams to deliver quality solutions to clients. I have worked on a variety of pension projects at Muse, and have built expertise in pensions management, adviser selection and trustee governance.

Recently I have worked with trustees to manage succession planning and facilitated a survey on trustee remuneration practices. The majority of my work has involved the selection of outsourced providers, be that pensions management, secretarial or investment consultants.

What is your background?

My work at Muse Advisory has evolved, alongside with the business, over the last ten years! I hold a BSC in Psychology, and started my career within human resources gaining CIPD along the way.

My time in HR and Reward has meant I have been able to develop my interpersonal and facilitation skills, and have learnt to navigate the vast cultural chasms between companies! I have a wide range of experience from a building society merger to the implementation of a global performance management system.

My appointment as Pensions Governance Manager came as a baptism of fire following an acquisition, but it definitely stoked my interest in the pensions industry.

What do you bring to Muse?

Resourcing and performance management remain of particular interest to me. The skills I built in these roles means I have seen what works well, or not so well. I bring strong organisational skills and a fresh perspective to projects. To me, success is to find practical solutions to the challenges that UK pension schemes face.

What do you do for fun?

When I have free time at home I can usually be found in the green house or walking the dog. I also like to spend time in Cornwall or Spain with my family – relaxing with a Cornish ice cream or una cerveza!

I frequently consider promoting myself to team umpire, but can still be found hurling a hockey stick around the field! There are a few goals to be scored yet!

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