Gordons’ Pensions Team publish the findings of specially commissioned research project, “Independent pension scheme trustees: trends for the future”

Tuesday 10th February 2015

There is an increasing focus on pension scheme governance and the composition of trustee boards.  The Gordons’ Pensions Team has now published [Click here to download] the findings of its specially commissioned research looking at the role played by independent trustees (ITs) and exploring how this may develop in the future.

The key findings of the report are:

  • Although respondents felt that their skill-set should ideally complement those of the rest of the trustee board, they identified people management skills and providing an objective voice as essential key soft skills.  However, these soft skills were towards the bottom end of those mentioned by respondents when asked what skills they brought to their trustee boards.
  • The structure of IT appointments is still developing and tends to be open-ended.  Only 20% of respondents said they have fixed term appointments. At the same time, respondents felt that even when they are part of a corporate IT, it is still the individual who is key to getting an appointment.
  • 71% of respondents considered that there will be a shift toward sole trusteeship for defined benefit schemes which are increasingly being seen as an historic liability problem.
  • Independent trusteeship is increasingly becoming a career in its own right rather than being only for those later in their careers. However, a significant number of respondents said that they combined IT work with something else.
  • 67% of respondents would welcome events and training targeted at ITs.


Terry Saeedi, Partner and Head of Pensions at Gordons LLP, said: “Our research indicates that there is an increased need for independent trusteeship, particularly as defined benefit arrangements cease to be part of the employee reward package. More direct engagement with ITs by employers and other trustees will start to influence the skills which ITs need to demonstrate.

As our research found, ITs will need support in developing their skills and will look for tailored training and support events.  We have already launched an independent trustee forum, aimed particularly at ITs outside London.  This provides an opportunity to network, share ideas and receive training.  We are also looking at other ways in which we can support ITs.