Nigel Modlinsky, Head of Corporate Sole Trustee, LawDeb elaborates:
By way of background, our Corporate Sole Trustee (“CST”) appointments cover 50 schemes with assets up to £3.5bn but an average scheme size of £70m. In addition, around a third of the requests for proposal we receive for new trustee appointments are now for CST, so it’s clearly a governance model which is resonating loudly with sponsoring employers.
It is worth starting by clearing up a common misconception about CST – namely the word ‘sole’; while we can’t speak to how other providers operate ‘sole trustee’, at LawDeb CST is very much a team sport! Let’s look at what we mean by that in practice:
- Access to the depth and breadth of all our Trustees. As a minimum we always appoint a Lead Trustee and Peer Trustee for a CST client. Our LawDeb Governance framework means the client is actually appointing the 24 Trustee Directors with their diverse backgrounds, skillsets and experience. This isn’t just a technicality; our collaborative team culture means we regularly call upon the experience and knowledge of our wider team. We’re also continuing to expand our Trustee team with a new role for mid-career individuals, further broadening the skills, experience and diversity of our trustee team.
- Decision making. Decisions on CST are made by at least two LawDeb trustees. We actively encourage dialogue and challenge between our colleagues, with differing opinions openly expressed and debated. Additionally, where decisions would significantly impact members or the sponsor, we have peer panels consisting of at least four trustees, drawing upon a broader range of views as well as specialist expertise within our team, be that legal, actuarial, covenant, investment etc, and actively encouraging challenge and debate.
- Wider LawDeb team. In addition to our 24 Trustees, we also draw on the experience of our 25 Pension Executives who support the Trustee Directors on CST. Our Pension Executives are drawn from a wide background within the pension industry, from ex-in-house pension teams to colleagues with specific expertise in consulting, administration and governance. All our CST clients have at least one Pension Executive assigned and depending on the requirements of the sponsor will supply governance, scheme secretarial and scheme management services. Drawing upon the experience of our Pension Executives further adds to the skills and experience involved our decision-making process.
- Knowledge sharing. At LawDeb, we believe strongly in sharing our collective knowledge and experience for the benefit of our clients. Time is willingly given between colleagues to help each other and our clients. Examples of this are:
- very regular ad-hoc queries and knowledge sharing amongst the team
- twice weekly LawDeb pension team meetings to share knowledge and thoughts, where we discuss client issues, and industry developments
- internal working parties to consider common pension issues and legislative changes and aim to find innovative solutions
- client quarterly peer review meetings where the client teams come together to formally discuss client specific issues and progress against strategic goals.
- Client team rotation. Where appropriate, we look to review client teams over the medium term so that we bring a fresh perspective and so draw upon our wider skillset of our personnel, with a scheme’s evolving circumstances and priorities front of mind. While we have no set time limits for scheme appointments and always consult the client before any change in Trustees, most of our historic CST clients have a change of Trustee Director after a period of 6 years.