11th December 2020
The Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) has undertaken a survey of its members to coincide with its 10th anniversary. The member survey was conducted in conjunction with XPS, the largest pure pensions’ consultancy in the UK.
Thesurvey investigated: AMNT members in particular; member nominated trusteeship in general; the impact of the current pandemic; and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. A copy of the full survey is attached.
David Weeks, Co-Chair of the AMNT said: “The results of the survey highlight the views of an experienced group of people, with an average length of service as a trustee of 12 years. They collectively represent about one third of the assets under management in UK pension funds. As such, they provide a valuable insight into current attitudes and experience and point to how things might develop in the future, particularly in relation to ESG and diversity issues.
“However, one thing highlighted by the results concerns me. The current generation of member nominated trustees may be hard to replace without positive action, certainly with people of the same calibre. Being a member nominated trustee is not an easy ride. It takes time and commitment, akin to that of a NED in a PLC. It is not necessarily a well understood role and this may deter some potential recruits. We need to focus on this issue to ensure a strong supply of MNTs is available for the future".
Rob Wallace, Head of Governance at XPS agreed. “The trustee role is a challenging one that is largely unpaid and with significant time commitment. 74% spent 30 hours or more on formal trustee business each year, with 58% spending a further 30 hours or more on background reading/ training.
“Despite this 90% of respondents supported a further raising of the bar with a view that there should be a compulsory qualification for all trustees (with the majority favouring a formal requirement to complete the trustee toolkit). In my view the key challenge is keeping the flow of new MNTs and seeking to increase diversity” he concluded.
With close to 800 individual members representing pension schemes with assets under management of just under £1 trillion, AMNT is a major representative force in the occupational pensions sector. It remains the only pensions’ trade association that represents primarily individual pension scheme members rather than provider interests.
XPS Pensions Group is the largest pure pensions consultancy in the UK, specialising in actuarial, investment consulting and administration. The XPS Pensions Group business combines expertise, insight and technology to address the needs of over 1,100 pension schemes and their sponsoring employers on an ongoing and project basis. XPS undertake pensions administration for over 930,000 members and provide advisory services to schemes of all sizes including 25 with over £1bn of assets.
XPS Pensions Group was awarded Third Party Administrator of the Year at the UK Pension Awards for the second year running in 2020 and has also been ranked the No.1 Third Party Administrator in the Professional Pensions Administration Survey in five of the past seven years. Also in 2020, XPS Pensions Group was awarded the FT’s PIPA Technology Services of the Year Award and in 2019 awarded Actuarial/Pensions Consultancy of the Year at the UK Pensions Awards.
XPS Pensions Group has also been ranked Gold in the Employee Engagement category and Silver in the Employee-Centric Company category at the 2020 UK Employee Experience Awards. XPS Pensions Group won two awards at the 2020 Business Culture Awards winning Best Business Culture Transformation Initiative and the overall Gold Award winner for Business Culture.
Top ‘Headline Takeaways’ from the member survey include:
• MNTs continue to fulfil a valuable and experienced role in pension scheme governance.
• The current pandemic has not made a great impact on the operation of pension schemes: either business solutions or conduct of business.
• MNTs tend to hold favourable views of the Pensions Regulator (TPR): as an essential trainer, and as a guide during the current pandemic.
• ESG factors (environment, social, governance) continue to assume increasing importance in decision making.
• Technical skills are valued higher than soft skills.
• Training is critical for all Trustees.
• AMNT members have great accumulated experience, with an average of around 12 years in post. (I.3.)
• Remuneration: 45% say they are remunerated in cash or time off regular duties. An MNT role is not, however, a great money spinner for the time commitment and attention to training that they show (akin to an NED in a PLC). (I.5; I.6; I.7; IV.7; V.3.)
• AMNT members are experienced in their approach. They know what a well-run scheme should look like: (1) Funding level. (II.5.) (2) Employer covenant. (II.6.) (3) Risk management and de-risking.
• End game. Almost all, 98%, have a plan: Buy out is the gold standard; Consolidators and superfunds remain a minority interest; Fiduciary management is a topic on which trustees
have made up their minds, either for or against. (X.2; VII.5.)
• There is not much diversity at present, but awareness has grown for the value of widening the pool. (I.4; IV.6.)
• The current generation of MNTs may be hard to replace without positive action, certainly with people of the same calibre. AMNT members are, however, concentrated in defined benefit schemes, which constitute a declining market. (II.3; II.4; IV.5.)
Member nominated trusteeship in general
• Role of an MNT is akin to that of a NED in a PLC. It is not necessarily a well understood role. This deficiency may deter some potential recruits. (IV.7.)
• AMNT members support a compulsory qualification for all trustees: the figure is as high as 90%. (V.2.)
• The Pensions Regulator’s trustee toolkit is the method of choice for accreditation. (V.2.)
Impact of the current pandemic
• The general picture is that the current pandemic has not made much impact. (III to X, inclusive.)
• Performance of the Pensions Regulator in responding to the pandemic receives a cautious vote of confidence from a wide spectrum (9/10) of respondents. (IX.2; IX.3.)
• The pandemic has produced a beneficial effect in focusing the attention of trustees. (IV.3.)
• It has not produced any particular negative impact on the conduct of business. (Virtual meetings are a useful extra tool, but not a full substitute for face to face meetings.)
• ESG factors have assumed increased importance in decision making since AMNT’s survey of 2017. (VII.6.)
• Pandemic has not made much impact to this trend. Nearly half (48%) say: “ESG factors were already a key part in our investment strategy”. 49% say: “Our focus on ESG factors
hasn’t changed following the pandemic”. 18% do, however, say: “Our focus on ESG factors has increased following the pandemic”. (VII.6.)
For further information please contact:
David Weeks, Co- Chair, AMNT. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Wallace, Head of Governance at XPS. Robert.email@example.com