• Role: Consultant Analyst
  • Organisation: Aon

Hazel Holland

I started as an apprentice at Aon Hewitt in September 2014 and completed the apprenticeship in March 2016. While I achieved excellent A level grades, I was unsure of the career path I wanted to follow and decided to give university – and the large fees – a miss and started work at John Lewis. While working there, I found out about the Aon apprenticeship. I didn’t know I wanted to get involved in the finance sector, but I now know this was definitely the right decision. I have now worked at Aon for two and a half years, and have developed a wide range of transferable skills as well as pension-specific knowledge.

My current role involves managing the governance of pension schemes and dealing with members. Pensions are highly regulated and there are various requirements which have to be met as well as meeting best practice requirements.

A regular task which I get involved in is the production of meeting packs and pulling together meeting agendas. For some of my clients, I attend their meetings and take the minutes. Following this, I also pull together an actions log and keep on top of any actions which need to be completed. For some of my clients I get involved with member queries and complaints. An example would be a member questioning what benefits their spouse/dependents would receive in the event of their death. I would start by reading the Trust Deed and Rules (the key legal document describing the pension scheme), and if these are unclear, seeking legal advice. I would then need to respond to the member. Sometimes it is straightforward to resolve a factual issue, but it can also be very important to the individual, so I have to be sensitive to their point of view – even when they are wrong!

When a member dies, some benefits are automatically payable under the Scheme Rules and, in other cases, the rules require Trustee discretion. When this is required, I have to analyse the case and ensure we have the information required to make a recommendation to the Trustee on who should receive the benefits. In some cases it is not straightforward or obvious to whom the benefits should be paid and further investigation may be required, e.g. I may have to contact the deceased relatives to verify information or to request further information.

Specific projects

As well as the ongoing governance of pension schemes, I have the opportunity to get involved with one-off projects. For example, I have been involved in a buyout project (where the members’ benefits are transferred to an insurer) and the de-risking of the pension scheme assets. My role included arranging various data cleanse exercises and getting involved with the insurer’s due diligence work.

Challenges

The biggest challenge has been managing the balance between my work and exams. I am currently working towards the PMI’s Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision. This has required substantial amounts of time to be dedicated towards understanding the content and applying it to practice exam questions. This can be difficult when there are critical client deadlines in the approach to exams.

Top skills

  • Be organised – I have lots of different deadlines for different clients which have to be met.
  • Have good people skills – a lot of my time involves liaising with other advisors and talking to members.
  • Have good problem solving skills – no one member case is the same and more senior colleagues value it when you can present them with a solution to accompany a problem.
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