Welcome on board! – some obvious, and some less obvious, reasons why it’s good to have new trustees

Everyone knows that pensions are really complicated, right? Joining a trustee board for the first time therefore can, understandably, be pretty daunting.

If you are thinking about applying to become a trustee, have just agreed to take on the role, or are on a selection panel looking at candidates with no experience alongside some well-seasoned trustees, you might be asking yourself what new trustees bring to the table and how can it compare to the benefit of years of pension experience or familiarity with your scheme?

Stop right there. Having some new trustees on your board is good for everyone – members, other trustees, and even us advisers – for lots of reasons.

The obvious: fresh eyes, new ideas and increased diversity and skills

Let’s start with the obvious advantages.

New trustees bring fresh eyes and new ideas. They may increase the board’s diversity and are likely to look at things in a different way, helping the board identify and explore new approaches and see things from different perspectives. As the Pensions Regulator’s recent guidance on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion highlights, increased board diversity leads to better discussion and better decisions. They may also have wider non-pension specific skill sets which complement those of the existing trustees.

The less obvious…

But that’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more. Here are my top 5 less obvious advantages of having new trustees on the board.

  • We take more time – when there are new trustees in the room, trustee meeting agendas become more targeted and more flexible. It is recognised that things are going to slow down a bit. This naturally allows more time for discussion and questions.
  • We go back to basics – when a board is stocked with very experienced trustees, we can be quick to take things as read or assume everyone is on the same page. Having new trustees gives us a good excuse to go back to first principles or do some extra training before diving into a decision. These “back to basics” sessions are often just as helpful for longer standing trustees as they are for the new trustees.
  • We cut (or at least explain) the jargon – pensions has a language all of its own, full of acronyms, abbreviations and technical terminology. The only way to effectively bring new trustees into the discussion from day one is to cut (or at least explain) the jargon. When we do, I’m always equally horrified by how much jargon there usually is (!) and impressed by how much we can simplify the conversation and make it more accessible when we make the effort to.
  • We refocus – new trustees inevitably join various scheme projects part way through. If you’ve been working on a project for a long time, it’s not unusual to start to lose focus or forget why you decided to take a particular approach. Bringing new trustees up to speed forces us to recap on the story so far. This offers a great opportunity to take stock and refocus on our objectives and priorities, helping us to refine the next phase of work and ultimately leading to a more successful outcome.
  • We are more energised – new trustees bring an invaluable injection of interest, enthusiasm and positive energy.  Welcoming someone new to the world of pensions also tends to remind the rest of us why we enjoy working in it. This can result in everyone leaning in and raising their game.

So, if you are a new trustee heading to one of your first few meetings, WELCOME ON BOARD!

It really is good you are here.

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