Terry Ritchie, Development Director, Pinsent Masons Pension Services, explains why good quality trustee training remains as important as ever, especially for new trustees
Trustee training is at the heart of good pension scheme governance, with The Pensions Regulator applying pressure to make sure that trustee boards identify and address training needs to a consistently high standard.
The first and most important priority, however, is to take some training! There are still some trustees who are not doing so, and that has significant risks attached.
Any trustee – and new trustees in particular – needs training to make sure they fully understand their role and its responsibilities, how to work with their advisers and how a pension scheme is structured. Good governance and risk control should always be core topics. It’s also essential to get to grips with key documents such as the scheme’s Statement of Investment Principles and Trust Deed & Rules.
Ways of delivering training
Nothing beats face-to-face training. Good quality training isn’t just about knowledge of a technical subject, it’s also about passing on tips and tricks to make sure trustees don’t fall into traps. That is best achieved in a face-to-face forum. It also makes topics come alive and enables trustees to ask all the questions that they need. As well as being beneficial in a training context, confidence in asking questions and challenging advisers is an important part of trusteeship.
When it’s not possible to deliver face-to-face training, there is value in formats such as podcasts where you can listen and absorb information in bite-sized chunks. Many trustees also have day-jobs, so podcasts enable them to listen at a time that works for them. Everyone has time constraints, so convenience is really important.
Trustee chairs have a big role to play in making sure trustees’ training remains current. For example, they can share their own knowledge and make sure that advisers deliver training at the end of every trustee meeting. However, it’s also important that they spend time talking to their trustees and understanding any gaps in their knowledge. They can then use this to create a structured personal training programme and log for each individual.
There are plenty of ways in which trustees can develop their skills and keep up to date, including industry events, input from advisers and independent training from industry bodies such as the PLSA. The PLSA has the benefit of being independent as well as maintaining active dialogue with government and The Pensions Regulator, which helps to make sure standards remain high (see boxout).
Supporting new MNTs and MNDs through training is vitally important. Once familiar with the role, new trustees bring fresh perspectives and question the way in which the board and its advisers operate. That opens up new conversations and potentially new ways of working, so everybody benefits from top quality, well presented trustee training.
Terry Ritchie is a trainer on the PLSA’s Trusteeship: Part 1 – the theory trustee training course.