I am a pensions professional who has worked both in–house and at a consultancy. For the last four years I have worked at Inside Pensions as a Senior Scheme Secretary for a range of trustee boards.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
Well, technically, I didn’t! I applied for an administration post at Ernst & Young which was in the corporate pensions department and, as they say, the rest is history. I really enjoyed the work and moved to an administration role at a consultancy.
I then moved to an in-house management role and I did that for nine years. This was hugely enjoyable. It gave me a very wide knowledge base of actuarial, investment and administration issues, which in my view is essential groundwork for a good scheme secretary. I also managed the sharp end of implementing the decisions that were taken and would advocate simplicity unless there is a good reason for complexity! I saw things from a corporate and trustee perspective, providing secretariat and in house pensions manager services. I then went on to join Inside Pensions as a professional scheme secretary.
What is a typical day like for you?
One thing is for certain, it is never the same. Every day brings fresh challenges and we have to work flexibly to cope with the unexpected. We are completely client focused. I will typically be preparing for each client’s trustee board and committee meetings, ensuring advisors and service providers know and understand what is required of them, liaising with trustees and ensuring that actions from previous meetings are managed effectively to conclusion. On the majority of my schemes I also manage the trustees’ budgets so I will typically ensure that costs are being managed and that schemes are getting value for money from their service providers.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety, the challenge and the people are the best things. Pension schemes are constantly facing fresh challenges, such as changes in legislation or funding levels and I need to be on top of what’s happening as well as managing the planned ‘normal cycle’ of work. Each trustee board and committee has a different dynamic and approach to issues. I really enjoy understanding and working with different people, building relationships, and developing strategies to ensure the most effective and efficient running of the trustee boards and committees.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
I work to very strict deadlines – although meeting dates are planned well in advance, last minute work is inevitable. This means that resources need to be managed carefully and communications with all parties involved in the delivery of meeting papers need to be clear and timely. Of course, you have to be flexible. Late changes can create pressure but this is very much what I do, what I am experienced in and what I thrive on.
My clients dislike papers being tabled at meetings and I work very hard with advisers to ensure that doesn’t happen. Delivering a full set of meeting papers seven days before a meeting is non-negotiable in my book.
What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome these?
In the role of Senior Scheme Secretary, the key is the relationships you develop with the people you work with and for. The introduction of an independent secretary can be a new concept to some. I’ve worked hard to demonstrate the value of the service and the level of savings that can be made – both in monetary and governance terms. I am open and sensitive to change; I try to keep things simple and most importantly, I always listen.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I love my job with Inside Pensions and want to continue to work with clients to help them to run their schemes more effectively. We see the secretariat function as the vital glue needed to actually make things happen. I help my clients by relieving the governance burden on trustee boards: allowing the trustees to focus on making the right decisions, whilst I ensure that their decisions are actually implemented, which of course is very important!