Monday, July 22, 2013

Focus on Member Nominated Representation in the LGPS

This is the article I posted on the Pension Social Media site Mallowstreet for a feature they did on trustees. I have been short listed for the annual Mallowstreet Awards for 2013 as "Most Influential Trustee" (2nd year running) and "Top Blogger". 

"I've been a member nominated representative on the Tower Hamlets Local Government Pension Scheme since 1996 (there are no Trustees in the LGPS). I was nominated by my trade union UNISON and have been there ever since. In fact all the original Councillors, Council officers, professional advisers and fund managers have all left apart from me. I am also the admitted body representative.  

There are 101 different LGPS. Collectively they are worth around £130 billion. It is an open defined benefit scheme.  The Tower Hamlets scheme is worth (June) £930 million and has 16,000 members (5,200 active).  There is an investment panel which reports to a Council committee.

The main challenge as a "trustee" is keeping up-to-date with the scheme paperwork and keeping your pension knowledge current. The best part of the role (not really a highlight) is holding your fund managers and advisers to account. Especially with regard to good Governance and other ESG issues. It is surprising how poorly prepared some managers are when they come to present to panel. Even in Beauty Parades you find prospective managers come to see us and they haven't even read our Statement of Investment Principles.

The LGPS is changing dramatically next year with a new set of benefits. Also there are going to be local pensions boards set up in partnership with the trade unions and the employer representatives (elected Councillors). There will be for the first time 50/50 representation on these boards.

I think all member nominated trustees or representatives need more support and independent training. UNISON is planning to offer training and advice to its representatives. The TUC Trustee Network and the Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) have been really supportive (as of course can be social media sites such as Mallowstreet!).

It can be very difficult as a lay trustee to feel confident enough to challenge your advisers and managers. You need the input of your peers".

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