I began my career with Punter Southall after completing my A-Levels. In 2012 I joined PS Independent Trustees (PSIT) to become an Assistant Scheme Manager where I provide support for large pension secretary and independent trustee appointments and also act as Scheme Secretary to a number of smaller appointments. My friends often ask me “Why did you choose a career in pensions? It doesn’t sound very exciting”. How wrong they are!
When looking for a career I wanted to find a job where each day would be different, which would utilise my mathematical and problem-solving ability, allow me to push myself and continue to study, as well as provide responsibility with the addition of meeting clients. A career in pensions, in particular the pension secretariat and professional trustee sector, was well suited to me and offered everything I was looking for.
What are your main duties?
Assistant Scheme Manager is a very varied role which is of pivotal importance and provides me with exposure to a wide-range of tasks, which include:
- Organisation of Trustee and other meetings – assisting with the preparation of agenda and papers. Assisting with the preparation of specific reports/papers and co-ordination with advisers to produce concise papers.
- Attendance at meetings and participation in discussions – Following the meetings I will be involved in the preparation and issue of draft minutes to the Chairman for initial comments and final issue of the minutes once agreed. A key part of my role is ensuring that actions arising from the meeting are dealt with and actioned, following up on outstanding actions in a timely manner.
- Ensuring that Trustees meet legal and compliance requirements – this includes helping to prepare the Annual Report and Accounts in conjunction with key advisers and also producing a shorter version of the report to be issued to pension scheme members. It also includes updating key scheme documents such as pension scheme risk register, trustee knowledge and understanding logs, decision logs, document matrix, scheme business plans, scheme budgets and annual timetable. This also includes ensuring that the schemes meet annual deadlines, such as ensuring that a return is made to the Pensions Regulator within a certain timescale and working through a pension scheme triennial valuation.
- Scheme financial management – for larger clients we are responsible for maintaining the scheme budget, liaising with scheme advisers, their sponsoring employers and administrators to approve invoices and expenses.
- Undertaking project work – this can include running adviser review projects, member-nominated trustee nominations, de-risking projects and governance reviews. The role also involves dealing with member queries and complaints directly and indirectly.
What skills are useful?
I believe the most important skills to have in this profession are the ability to prioritise, to switch quickly between different tasks/clients, have a “can do” attitude and be able to work under pressure in a fast-paced environment whilst still providing quality work. It also helps to have a good level of literacy, mathematical skills and IT proficiency.
What are the most stressful parts of the role?
I thrive on ensuring that a scheme is run very efficiently, deadlines are not missed and a high level of service is provided. However, not everything goes to plan. The ability to sort problems efficiently and pragmatically is critical. Due to the nature of client work, there will always be occasions where work is required at short notice or different clients have the same deadline for pieces of work. The ability to prioritise and where necessary delegate work is important.
Any advice to students wanting to get into the industry?
I would recommend that you put extra effort into achieving the best grades possible at A-Level, particularly choosing modules which will assist with the role. Do not think that not going to university is a barrier to excelling in a career. I’ve personally found that the work experience gained whilst working when I could have been at university has been more valuable and allowed me to move on with my career. You should also be willing to learn whilst in the job and sit professional exams. Legislation, schemes and processes are continually evolving.