The Professional Trustee Standards Working Group (PTSWG), an industry working group established with support from the Pensions Regulator, has published a set of standards which it considers professional pension scheme trustees should meet, together with details of a proposed accreditation process.
The standards have been published following a consultation process. They do not of themselves have any legal force, but as the PTSWG includes a representative from the Pensions Regulator, they are likely to be indicative of the standards which the Regulator expects from professional trustees.
The standards are divided into three sections: the first applies to all professional trustees, the second to professional trustees chairing or assisting the chair of a trustee board, and the third to professional trustees acting as sole trustee. Standards applicable to all professional trustees include:
- ensuring the trustee board as a whole understands the issues on which they are required to make decisions, and that such decisions are not compromised by conflicts of interest;
- that neither the professional trustee nor its wider group should act as an adviser to the trustee board. Where the professional trustee or its firm provides services such as keeping records of trustee meetings, it should ensure there are separate terms of business in place governing those services;
- if the professional trustee is being appointed following the removal or resignation of another professional trustee, the incoming trustee should seek a written statement from that person detailing the circumstances. Outgoing professional trustees should provide such statements when requested; and
- professional trustees should undertake a minimum of 25 hours annual learning and development.
The standards for a professional trustee acting as chair say that it should be fully engaged with all issues of strategic importance facing the scheme and ensure that the trustee board addresses those issues and is able to form its own view without being "unduly adviser-led". The chair is expected to "ensure decisions are well documented and that implementation is well executed" and that all reporting requirements for the scheme are met.
The additional standards for a professional trustee acting as sole trustee include:
- a sole trader should not accept an appointment to act as sole trustee;
- formal written procedures for fraud prevention, maintenance of continuity of service and peer review of key decisions; and
- a process to ensure there are a minimum of two accredited professionals from the trustee firm who are directly responsible for each sole trustee appointment.
The standards also say that if a professional trustee is acting as a co-trustee and is asked to act as sole trustee, it should ensure due consideration is given by the trustees and employer as to whether there should be a formal tender/benchmarking process before the appointment is made. The conclusions and rationale following such consideration should be documented.