How we make change happen

How we make change happen

Our research over the summer has provided some useful perspectives on our future engagement with you, our members

What do you think of the PLSA? Do we perform well at bringing you world-class events? Does our policy work address the challenges you face, and does our support and guidance help you face them? Do we give you a voice with government?

In the summer of 2019 we partnered with social research experts ICM to understand what our members value about the PLSA and where you think we can improve

You said you want to know more about our role captaining the industry, bringing people together to lobby and influence change. 

Here’s how we make good changes happen. 

 Regulation

A key challenge from a trustee perspective: the rate of regulatory change, and our ability to stay current, and our understanding… the pace of regulation change. PLSA Fund Member

Decisions made in government and by public bodies change the way our members do their jobs and the way millions of people will experience their retirement. Regulation keeps changing. It can be difficult and exasperating to keep pace.

But among PLSA members there’s a widespread sentiment that pensions are under-valued by government and society more generally. They feel besieged by change, not supported by it.

That’s why representing our members’ interests and acting as their voice in Whitehall and Westminster is our core purpose. As the voice of the pensions industry – something 85% of our members see as a core strength – we see the bigger picture and we make sure the government sees it too.

Success depends on excellent links with ministers, civil servants, regulators, Parliamentarians, influencers and industry bodies. Those relationships mean we know what’s coming, what’s most important to our members, where we’re most likely to succeed and how to go about it. 

PLSA members can recognise our influence across the pensions sector: 

  • 84% say we’re influential with regulators – the Financial Conduct Authority and the Pensions Regulator
  • 78% say we influence the government
  • And with pension schemes and employers – 78% 

The policy process

Formulating and communicating our policy positions and getting results for members isn’t a linear process. Improving the system isn’t as simple or as easy as publishing an idea or responding to a consultation. Pensions policy is developed through several iterations and interactions and success can take some time to shape and to measure. 

Nevertheless, we can see our work on behalf of our members in four phases: identify the issue, formulate our position, make our case, and follow-up. 

Direct engagement on stewardship

Our work on investment and stewardship helps over 80% of our members run their schemes.

Identifying the issue

Increasing public and media interest in areas such as the gender pay gap, executive pay and business culture and poor corporate behaviour means corporate governance, stewardship and investment issues are in the parliamentary spotlight. 

Our members are significant investors in UK companies. We’ve supported their engagement with the companies they invest in for many years and we’ve been a strong supporter of the UK Stewardship Code since its launch in 2010. 

We provide a range of resources to support members’ responsible investment and stewardship activities including practical advice for engaging with companies and asset managers, events and discussion papers on stewardship issues, and responses to government consultations. Our ability to bring people together is especially valuable in an area where collaborative engagement by asset owners is crucial in making a difference. 

Formulating our position 

We work closely with our Asset Owners Advisory Group and our Stewardship Advisory Group (which looks at ESG and stewardship issues specifically) and seek views from our wider membership to inform stewardship policy. This engagement informs work such as:

Making our case

Giving our members direct access to decision-makers helps to influence change and shape an environment that works for them. Of course we engage closely with the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which helps open other doors in Westminster.

In June 2019 we facilitated a lunch in Westminster with eight of our members and the influential House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee when it wanted to hear asset owners’ views – to add to the investment industry’s – as it looked to talk through key areas of investment, stewardship and corporate governance. 

This gave our members a fantastic opportunity to give their views directly and help shape the thinking of Parliamentarians as they formulated their own positions in high-profile areas. 

Following up

Broad and rapidly changing areas such as this require continuous engagement. We’re in ongoing contact with parliamentarians on the Committee, helping to inform their continuing thinking and progress on a range of corporate governance, stewardship and investment issues such as:

  • The link between asset owners and day-to-day management of investment decisions. 
  • The role of policymakers in creating the right environment for asset owners to act as engaged stewards of their assets.
  • The role of asset owners in improving corporate governance in ESG and climate change, gender balance on boards, excessive executive pay and focussing on long-term performance. 

Beyond the BEIS Committee we’re leading a range of collaborative activity across these issues. We have discussed corporate governance issues with House of Commons Library staff, organised meetings for members with key ministers on climate change and stewardship policy issues (until purdah intervened), captained a PLSA members’ response to a ministerial letter on climate change and stewardship – which secured a ministerial meeting – and in December we held a teach-in with Clerks of the Work and Pensions Select Committee on corporate governance and ESG issues. 

We’re also building our role as a forum for collaborative engagement between asset owners, particularly on workforce disclosure, bringing together expert members to massively update our Corporate Governance Policy and Voting Guidelines for 2020, and updating the Stewardship Disclosure Framework (in line with the new Stewardship Code). 

Sometimes success can be measured through our voice being recognised in new forums. In November we joined a new Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) pensions industry working group which will produce guidance for asset owners – to be launched at our Investment Conference 2020. In the same month we appeared in national media, speaking about the significant negative implications Labour’s plans to nationalise water and energy utilities, train companies, Royal Mail and parts of BT Group could have on the value of UK savers’ pensions and the wider longer-term impact on the private sector’s willingness to invest in the UK infrastructure and economy.

Stay in touch

Constant change is hard to keep up with. Our independent updates, insight and analysis keep you informed, up to date and ready to act. We bring you news on PLSA policy, updates on our lobbying and influencing and perspectives from across our membership. 

Informative, ‘thought-leading’, ‘authoritative’, ‘high-quality’. When it comes to their fortnightly newsletters, then I think it’s very much current, up-to-the-minute.  Pension scheme trustee on PolicyWatch

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