Winmark and Sackers launch report on effective governance for pension schemes

Winmark and Sackers announce the publication of ‘Effective Governance – the Art of Balance’, a new report on effective governance for pension schemes.

The report is based on a survey of 84 pension schemes and 13 in-depth interviews with chairs of trustees and other pensions experts. It explores the governance challenges that trustee boards face; the relationship between good governance and scheme effectiveness; governance priorities of trustees; and the impact of rising governance standards on trustee workload.

The report also provides practical recommendations on how to overcome obstacles, improve governance standards and boost scheme effectiveness.

Key findings

  • Sound governance structures, understanding roles and responsibilities, and identifying where time and resource can be put to best use are the foundations of good governance.
  • Governance is a balancing act, and one that requires agility so that schemes can adapt to change. Governance should never be a tick box exercise.
  • While significant, compliance is not the primary focus of governance. In fact, spending too much time on compliance may detract from other governance priorities that yield better member outcomes.
  • Skills and the ability to make an effective contribution to the trustee board are seen as more important than pensions knowledge. Knowledge, while important, can be acquired, but attitude and skills are more fundamental.
  • Professional trustees are seen to provide expertise and experience, whilst lay trustees are valued for their pragmatism, understanding of the members, and knowledge of the employer.

Key recommendations

  • Trustees should ensure there are no blind spots and that they close any knowledge and skills gaps. Board reviews, training and regulatory guidance can all play a part.
  • For both DB and DC schemes, trustee boards should seek to build effective working relationships with employers to deepen their engagement and stimulate information sharing. In this way, trustee boards will gain the best possible understanding of what the future may hold.
  • Trustees should deploy metrics to systematically measure performance to ensure that providers deliver value for money. It is good practice to review the market and draw on the sector expertise of independent trustees and pensions managers to assess and compare value and performance.

Suzanne van Montfoort, senior research manager at Winmark, commented: “Boards of trustees are performing a real balancing act. To run an effective scheme that achieves positive member outcomes, they need to perform a diverse range of tasks with limited resource, whilst navigating often complex employer and scheme dynamics. We are grateful to the trustees and other experts who shared their challenges and successes and hope this study will support trustee boards in their endeavours to raise schemes’ effectiveness through improved governance”.

Helen Baker, partner at Sackers, said: “We believe that these findings will help schemes of all sizes and structures to identify the cornerstones of good governance and decide where they want to focus going forwards. There can be no one size fits all approach in governance. Governance is a very practical subject and sharing experience enables all schemes to benefit from insights that reflect the realities of running a pension scheme.”

Download a copy of Effective Governance – the Art of Balance.

To discuss the report in more detail, please contact Suzanne van Montfoort at Winmark on 020 7605 8001 or email

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