Who'd be a pension trustee? Retirement guardians work harder for less pay

 
Oliver Gill
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Pension trustees, regarded as the first line of defence for the UK's retirement schemes, have seen workloads spike (Source: Getty)

Britain's pension trustees are being paid less and expected to work more, according to research released today.

The average annual pay of trustee chairs has declined over the past two years. And the number of them spending more than 40 days discharging their duties is at record levels, a report by PwC found.

PwC pensions partner Peter Sparshott said the spike in workloads were a result of "additional governance requirements".

Lady Barbara Judge, the former chair of the UK's retirement lifeboat, the Pension Protection Fund, told City A.M. it was "very surprising to hear trustees are being paid less for more work".

She added:

Pension trustees have a very serious and important role to play because they are the first line of defence for pensioners in the UK.

They need to be well educated with respect to their roles, obligations and duties. This is important so they can understand how to deal with difficult situations in the most appropriate way.

The role of pension trustees has been queried in the wake of a number of high profile corporate failures such as retailer BHS.

Caroline Escott, a policy lead at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association said: "Good governance remains absolutely vital to the running of a pension scheme, and a high-quality trustee board remains the benchmark."

Read more: The obvious solution to fixing pension black holes, according to Lady Judge

Independence

PwC analysis also revealed the number of trustee boards without an independent member almost doubled, from 18 per cent to 33 per cent.

Escott said: "Appointment of a skilled independent trustee can help strengthen trustee board governance and expertise; although it should also be combined with appropriate training and the relevant advice where necessary."

The PwC survey also asked trustee whether they used fiduciary management – where trustees delegate certain elements of an investment process to experts.

Despite overall assets owned by pension schemes growing, the majority of respondents had not reached out for such expert assistance.

Escott said: “Although we understand that such services can reduce the governance burden on trustees, and many of our pension fund members are happy with their fiduciary managers, our members have consistently expressed concerns about the potential misalignment of interests in this part of the market."

And PwC partner Andrew Drake added: “Fiduciary management can be very effective but it’s not for everyone. In addition, the market for these services is changing rapidly, so it’s important that every scheme using fiduciary management independently assesses its ongoing suitability and the fees being paid."

Read more: Revealed: The FTSE 100 firms facing the biggest pension headaches

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