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Achieving pension success and the best possible outcomes for members depends on the quality of your Trustee Board. We help enhance your governance to meet the demands of today and to plan for tomorrow.

Understanding whether you have the right balance of skills, expertise, experience, personality and cultural fit to get your Board working effectively can be tough. As we are independent we help you see what’s working well and use our experience to suggest practices from the best-run schemes.

Recognising that one-size never fits all, we see every size and hue of pension scheme so can bring an external and fresh perspective to help you understand all the options and determine what is likely to work best for you.

Our people have diverse professional backgrounds so their innovative thinking, expertise and experience means you get a great value solution which works for you and which we can help you implement.

Muse AdvisoryTrustee Elections and Selections

Muse AdvisoryTrustee Effectiveness Assessment

Muse AdvisoryGovernance Review and Implementation

Muse AdvisoryDecision-making and Meeting Management

Muse AdvisoryTrustee Roles and Responsibilities

Muse AdvisoryTrustee Budgeting and Constraints

Muse AdvisoryStrategy Workshops

Muse AdvisoryIntegrated Risk Management

Muse AdvisoryRisk Reviews and Workshops

Case Studies

Approaching Risk Management

Our client had a long-standing risk management process, which was effective in the past. It was now stale and no longer tied into the scheme's objectives. We helped our client refresh their approach to risk management.

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The challenge

Risk management had become “stale” and needed refreshing or so thought the Trustees’ risk committee at least. Consequently, Muse were commissioned to conduct an independent review of the Trustee Board’s risk management framework with a view to improving effectiveness.

The approach

Muse worked with the risk committee and the pensions team to understand the scheme’s approach to managing risk. Most importantly, we met with the Chair of each committee to discuss how the Trustee Board and each specific committee managed risk.

We discussed key themes from our findings in a Trustee risk workshop. To set the context, we shared how other similarly sized schemes manage risk and the processes and tools they use to do so.

We then considered what a fit-for-purpose risk governance framework might look like, incorporating selective delegation of risk management and the concept of risk owners. These ideas provided a useful template, against which the Trustees’ current framework was compared. The Trustees quickly concluded that their risk governance framework could be enhanced to become more effective.

Next, we debated how the Trustee Board could derive the maximum benefit from the time available in board meetings. There was an acceptance that significant time was allocated to matters that could be safely delegated to committees or the pensions team. The Board recognised that best utilisation of meeting time is critical if the Trustees are to maximise their governance impact.

In conclusion, the Trustees realised that to refresh their risk management process, they needed to address not just risk governance but their approach to broader scheme governance.

The outcome

To ensure the Trustee Board spends time on the right risks and prioritises issues effectively, it will first review its risk appetite and then agree its core strategic risks. The objective is to ensure risks are managed by the most appropriate “risk owners” (i.e. at the appropriate level).

The composition and roles of committees will be reviewed to ensure that focus is on the right things. The roles of other key players in the governance framework will be similarly reviewed.

Muse continues to work with the Trustees through participation in the working group charged with responsibility to recommend and oversee the implementation of changes to bring about enhanced effectiveness of both risk management and the broader governance framework.

Key learnings

  • It is impossible to divorce risk management from other aspects of governance.
  • Risk registers are an essential component of any effective risk management process, but the process can only be truly effective if it is owned and driven by experienced and engaged people.
  • Trustee Boards should determine whether sufficient time is devoted to those issues that are critical to the achievement of core strategic objectives. That must include time spent identifying, analysing and monitoring risks that materially threaten the achievement of those objectives.

Assessing Trustee Effectiveness

Self-assessment is reliant on objectivity, which is easier said than done. In this case study we look at how we helped a client determine if self-assessment is truly effective and focus on beneficial ways of working.

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Is self-assessment effective?

Self-assessment is reliant on objectivity; an ability to detach yourself from the daily rigours of trusteeship, to take an impartial look at the way you work, to be open-minded to ideas and challenge the established procedures, and to retain neutrality against criticism.

Whilst these are qualities that we see in many Trustee Boards, they are hard to apply when you are entrenched in the detail of running your pension scheme. How do you genuinely step back from the processes, procedures, tools and issues that surround you daily and consider: ‘Could we be working more effectively?' or ‘How could we do things better?'

Survey findings often show that Trustee Boards rate their own effectiveness highly, and yet facilitated assessments will often highlight shortcomings even where trustee confidence is high. This isn't a sales pitch for nit-picking, but more of an observation that only through independence is objectivity truly achievable.

An example

Our client rated themselves as fairly effective, but, admirably, they wanted to ensure that their view was accurate. Through a series of interviews, meeting observation and an online trustee effectiveness assessment, Muse were able to independently assess effectiveness.

The Trustees are commendably dedicated and knowledgeable, and they undertake a significant amount of the operational management themselves. With being so rooted in the minutiae, it is not surprising that we identified some issues to work through.

Where there are issues, there are risks

This is the flipside of having a group of energetic, engaged and diligent Trustees: an under-reliance on support. The DIY approach often means that structures and practices are not formalised or preserved for future generations of Trustees. The ineffective use of support represents a risk, and potentially damages the long term effectiveness of the Trustee Board.

Similarly, the committees had wide-ranging agendas. The limited delegation to support teams and advisers meant that decisions were often made in restricted time due to the weight of topics to cover. Consequently, decisions were not always being challenged as rigorously as good governance demands and the level of activity demanded by the committee agendas limited the time available to focus on the future; the strategic journey.

Trustee Boards should take the time to step back, question themselves, discuss and debate options openly and ensure there is a unified vision to drive the scheme fowards.

How did the Trustees benefit?

Through an objective assessment, the Trustees were able to identify and address some issues that they had not had the time to see for themselves and to develop plans to manage the risks, and develop the tools and processes they need.

Key learnings

  • There are limitations on how effective any Trustee Board can be when they are mired in the detail.
  • In assessing their own effectiveness, Trustee Boards should challenge whether they can truly be objective and know what they don't know?
  • Sometimes it is difficult to "see the wood for the trees" and Trustees should learn to recognise this and seek independent challenge and assessment.
  • There is a risk that issues will slip through unnoticed if the Trustee are not challenging themselves rigorously.
  • The work of a Trustee is demanding and the challenges are constantly evolving, so it is important that Trustees do take the time to consider their effectiveness, be critical of themselves and highlight shortcomings.

What our Clients Say

"When we needed external facilitation for a strategy orientated governance review, Julia and her colleagues at Muse Advisory understood just what was required. As a result of their considerable sector knowledge and experience they were able to hit the ground running and work with the Trustees to achieve their objectives in an efficient and effective manner."

Pete Wilkin, Chair of Trustees,
Nationwide Pension Fund

"Muse Advisory's objective assessment of the effectiveness of the Trustee Board's governance arrangements was well received. They also helped us map roles and responsibilities succinctly and with clarity."

Maria Crellin, UK Pensions Manager,
BAT UK Pension Fund

Our People

View Profile For Avgi Gregory
View Profile For Avgi Gregory

Avgi Gregory

My specialities are pensions management consultancy, governance, trustee effectiveness, pension administration and change management.

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What do you do?

I am the CEO and co-founder of Muse Advisory. A typical day will comprise a combination of:

  • working with Trustees, Pensions Managers, Trustee Secretaries or sponsoring employers in reviewing and enhancing the management, administration and governance of their pension scheme;
  • peer reviewing or coaching colleagues to ensure Muse continues to deliver quality work to clients; and,
  • challenging what we do and how we can best continue to help the clients and the team to succeed and grow.

What I enjoy most is supporting clients in solving their problems, and leading the team to succeed and grow.

What is your background?

I grew up helping my parents in a shop in Cyprus. It was the best training I could have had on the importance of putting customers first.

Following a degree in Actuarial Science at City University, and an induction into pensions doing actuarial and administration calculations, I gravitated to helping pension managers and trustees reduce risk and enhance effectiveness in the way they manage and oversee pension arrangements. For many years I worked at Mercer where I developed and led their operational transformation and pensions governance practice.

In 2006 I co-founded and set up Muse Advisory. And what a great idea that was!

What do you bring to Muse?

I bring my extensive experience of having worked with many of the UK’s, primarily large, pension schemes and a thorough insight into the governance, administration and pension advisory market. I am a good listener and spot the key issues quickly. Most of all I get a kick out of seeing people develop and clients achieve a successful outcome.

What do you do for fun?

Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) is my main hobby, which I have been practicing for years. Getting to know the Japanese culture is fascinating and playing with flowers is very relaxing. I have a new greenhouse and I discovered a dormant interest in gardening. I also make time for regular trips to Cyprus; it’s a lovely island and a good excuse to recharge Vitamin D supplies.

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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 Julia Land
View Profile For Julia Land

Julia Land

My expertise is in pension trustee effectiveness and development for boards, committees, trustees and those in chairing roles. Corporate governance and board engagement with stakeholders are also useful areas of experience. 

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What do you do?

I’m an Associate Director with Muse Advisory and have been involved with the firm since 2009. I major on board effectiveness and governance development, working with a wide range of boards including, with my Muse Advisory hat on, pension trustee boards.

I am also an associate with another independent governance firm, Independent Audit (corporate boards).

Much of my career has been spent with blue chip quoted companies and their boards. This has been fantastic experience which I can apply where it’s relevant in my current work.

Outside Muse, I am also a pro-bono independent trustee role for Crouch End Festival Chorus. If you haven’t heard or seen us perform yet, there are lots of opportunities coming up!

What is your background?

I started after university by qualifying as a chartered accountant at Arthur Andersen & Co and became part of their specialist oil and gas group, which in turn led me to the City. I’ve had three main careers so far in the related worlds of governance, investment and finance. In the ‘governance’ leg I’ve also trained as a coach and qualified on development tools such as Myers Briggs.

I’ve been a board governance advisor now for eleven years. This specialism developed from my earlier career in the institutional investment markets at Warburgs where I created and led the investor relations advisory services for corporate boards within the stockbroking business, and then at Deutsche Asset Management where I advised and worked with institutional pension fund boards as a fund director.

What do you bring to Muse?

What I hope I bring is expertise, a sense of proportion, good client skills and a sense of humour. People say I also make excellent cakes and that I sing well, which is useful when people are hungry and/ or need cheering up.

What do you do for fun?

I love the outdoors and swim in ponds and rivers when I get the chance. My real career of course has been waiting hand and foot on my two children and husband in the hope that they will one day return the favour. Ahem, I’m still waiting…

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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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