Top tips for “business different”

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The Covid-19 pandemic tested the resilience of trustee boards and their ability to maintain “business as usual” during extraordinary circumstances. Those trustee boards with robust governance frameworks adapted quickly, whilst some others struggled initially with moving to the virtual world.

The great news is: 95% of the schemes in our Chart Your Own Course survey earlier this summer, stated that the pandemic either had a positive impact or made no change to their approach to governance and decision making.

With Covid-19 safety restrictions now lifted, many trustee boards are considering what the future model for meetings and decision making might look like. Here are our top governance tips for achieving success in a “business different” world.

1. Evaluate your effectiveness

Now is a fantastic time to evaluate your governance activities and reflect on the last 18 months.

  • What went well?
  • What might you do differently?
  • What have you really missed from before the pandemic?

2. To meet or not to meet?

Whilst virtual meetings have brought us the gift of time in lieu of a commute and largely more efficient meetings, many trustees and advisers miss meeting in person and working collaboratively and are facing the dual challenges of “Zoom fatigue” and “Zoomthink”.

  • Could you retain a mix of virtual and in-person meetings?
  • What are the practicalities and challenges of a hybrid meeting (where some attendees join in person and others virtually)? Is it the Chair’s role to engage all trustees more effectively in decision-making?
  • Does a full day at a board meeting make it difficult for some people to attend? Or is a complete break from the day job easier to manage?

3. Use your time well

It was not uncommon for trustee meetings before the pandemic to fill up most of the working day. During the move to virtual meetings, many boards reduced the duration of their meetings and opted for more frequent meetings. We generally expect that an in-person meeting will last longer than a virtual meeting, if only to get the most out of the people in the room.

  • How long can you as a board focus for? Could shorter but more frequent meetings be useful? Have you considered the use of sub-committees, or other delegations, to free up time at board level?
  • Have you set your objectives and key priorities for the year? Is all trustee business aimed at achieving these?
  • How will a change in approach to meetings impact on trustee and adviser costs?

4. Have the right support in place

The role of the trustee is complex and technically demanding with trustees facing many challenges that exceed the time available. Having the right support, framework and technology can help trustees to react swiftly to the changing environment and operate more effectively.

5. Diversity + Inclusion = better decisions

The unfortunate truth is that, in general, pension trustee boards lack diversity. This is despite overwhelming research which shows that diverse groups, who are inclusive in how they operate, make better decisions. As members of the Pensions Regulator’s industry-wide Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, we are excited to help move the dial on this important topic. You can find more information on our Behavioural Insights Hub or check out these Investment Uncut podcast episodes: Do you decide well? Rebel ideas. Are there other ways to improve diversity of thought around the board room table, for example through advisers and professional trustees?

  • Do you have the right mix of skills and knowledge to make effective decisions?
  • What impact does groupthink have on your decision making?

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