As the pensions industry struggles through years of turmoil and deals with constant legislative changes, the responsibilities of the trustees in charge of schemes widen. Trustees must grapple with the day-to-day administrative tasks associated with their role, like paying bills and filing paperwork, while balancing their duty to act in the best interests of the scheme’s beneficiaries and maintain impartiality in all their dealings with the trust agreement.
Anyone can be appointed as trustee – from the untrained lay-trustee to professionals with years of experience – but they must be able to handle the requirements of the job. Trustees that fall short of their obligations could face legal and financial penalties, so it’s vital they understand entirely what is expected of them – and how much commitment it will take.
Get to grips with the trustee role…
Trustee training offers an opportunity for trustees of any level of experience to get to grips with their role – and equip themselves to handle the problems their pension scheme may face. Trustee training is available in a number of forms, including booklets and literature, workshops, seminars and online courses. The Pensions Regulator offers a variety of training methods in a toolkit (available online) which many financial organisations now direct inexperienced pension trustees towards.
While TPR’s toolkit has inherited the role of basic training for trustees, other options cater to different educational needs.
Workshops: workshops provide a group setting in which to exchange ideas with other trustees and evaluate management methods used for a specific scheme against those of others.
Conferences: an ideal medium for exploring new developments in the pension industry and the attitudes and advice of experts. Conferences are also a good setting in which to meet other trustees.
Training course/seminars: another group-learning setting and a way to tailor information to a specific scheme, seminars offer a more intimate way of learning about the trustee role. Seminars offer opportunities to learn about the specifics of trusteeship – including the lesser-known aspects of the job.
Literature/online material: self-learning can be done anywhere and at any time, meaning it’s flexible and accessible. Online resources are ideal for busy trustees who can’t spare the time to attend in-person training.
Finding the right training method
Most professional trustee organisations stress the importance of variety in trustee training and taking into account the needs and preferences of the individual trustee. Newer trustees and those without strong financial backgrounds will prefer a more general training approach, at least to begin with, and may want to attend conferences or seminars only once a sufficient knowledge-base has been acquired. Similarly, experienced trustees should always be open to evolving their management style as new research becomes available.
Trustee training is not a ‘one off’ process – and will continue for as long as the role is held. Perhaps the best type of experience is only gained ‘on the job’, as the pension trustee settles into his or her new position, interacts with other trustees and communicates with beneficiaries.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.