Out-Law Guide | 11 Aug 2011 | 9:43 am | 2 min. read
In recent years the workload associated with running pension schemes has increased. Changes in pensions and tax law, the increasing complexity of investment matters and increasing Pensions Regulator scrutiny of the governance of schemes have made it more difficult to run trustee meetings. There are ways that trustees can ease this burden.
Keep a calendar
Use the items outlined in a scheme's business plan to schedule a rolling calendar of issues and events that need to be addressed over the next few years, and keep this regularly updated so as not to overlook anything. The calendar should also include general legal, accounting and investment matters that need to be addressed over a longer timeframe.
It is important to ensure that all outstanding matters from the previous meeting are followed up. Meetings should also look to include issues that are not time restricted or not urgent, such as reviewing the internal controls of the pension scheme.
Send out agenda packs well in advance of meetings to ensure all those attending are fully abreast of the issues to be discussed at the next meeting and have time to prepare. Background information should be sent to help trustees fully evaluate issues. This information could include, for example, guidance or codes of practice issued by the Pensions Regulator.
The meeting agenda should include enough time for important strategic issues to be discussed and decided upon. All trustees should have the opportunity to participate in discussions and ask questions. The chairman of the meeting should try to contact people who are not able to make the meeting to discover their opinion and represent it during the meeting. The chairman must also intervene when discussions focus too finely on points of detail to ensure that the main issues of the meeting are addressed.
Trustees should consider inviting pension scheme advisers to their meetings. This will help build good relations with advisers who attend regularly and help keep them fully informed of all the issues facing trustees. Advisers may be able to answer questions or provide advice on the spot, which may save the trustees time and money in the long run. Advisers who regularly attend may also be able to identify potential issues and problems before they arise.
It may save time and help to spread the workload by setting up sub-committees within the trustee board to consider some issues at trustee meetings. These include, for example, investment matters and deciding upon discretionary benefit payments. The subcommittees should report to the main trustee board on a regular basis.
It is good practice for trustees to review their leaning needs regularly, perhaps once a year. Trustees whose knowledge is up to date will be able to take decisions more effectively. Trustees should keep a record of formal and informal training.
Have important documents readily available
Keep a folder of documents to hand for reference at meetings. These documents may include the pension scheme rule, the trust deed and rules, the latest annual reports and accounts, the latest actuarial valuation reports, what tasks have been delegated, sub-committee details, the internal dispute resolution procedure, the scheme's conflict of interest policy, the member booklet, the statement of investment principles, the schedule of contributions and the memorandum and articles of association for corporate trustees.
Managing conflicts of interest
Trustees need to identify and manage any conflicts of interest that arise during the course of a meeting. Details of what the conflicts are, and what action was taken to manage the issues, must be recorded in the pension scheme's conflicts register and noted in the meeting minutes. Sometimes legal advice may be required. It is also worth reminding those in attendance that discussions at trustee meetings are confidential.
All meetings should be carefully minuted and minutes should pay particular attention to trustee decisions and the reasons behind them. Ensure that the issues that have to be acted upon are highlighted. Draft minutes should be circulated as soon as possible after the meeting. Final copies should be kept throughout the lifetime of the pension scheme.