Pension trustee services: Open Trustees

Written on 15 Feb 2016

Our independent pension trustee service is recognised as one of the best in the country.

At a time when pension scheme trustees are facing enormous challenges, Open Trustees can help relieve the pressure.

We understand the issues facing trustees, whether that is increasing deficits arising out of investment underperformance and improved longevity, or the weakening of employer covenants. There is now a requirement for trustees to have a minimum level of pensions knowledge and understanding. The complex legislative backdrop means trustees’ actions can be challenged, and there are demands on trustees to improve internal controls and governance.

With the changing relationship between an employer and trustees meaning conflicts of interest must be carefully managed, and greater member awareness of pensions issues giving rise to more disputes, the threat of personal liability when things go wrong has become a real concern for trustees.

That is where the appointment of an independent and professional trustee service can be invaluable. Open Trustees can help your scheme by:

  • Managing conflicts of interest in decision-making, especially in funding negotiations
  • Improving trustee decision-making and the knowhow of the trustee board 
  • Offering sensible, pragmatic solutions that can meet the objectives of all parties involved 
  • Ensuring the scheme’s compliance with legislation in a cost-effective way 
  • Dealing with the issues that arise in corporate transactions and restructurings 
  • Overseeing the funding and investment strategy of the scheme
  • Reducing the amount of management time and commitment required
  • Cutting the risk of co-trustees being found personally liable for their actions
  • Working closely with scheme advisers and challenging them where necessary 
  • Encouraging employer and member confidence through our experience and impartiality

About Open Trustees

Open Trustees offers sensible, pragmatic solutions that can meet the objectives of all parties involved.

It is one of the UK’s leading independent trustee companies specialising in appointments to pension schemes.

We currently manage ongoing and paid-up schemes as well as those that are winding up. We act for defined benefit schemes, defined contribution schemes and hybrid arrangements. Many of the schemes that we operate benefit from assistance from the Financial Assistance Scheme or compensation from the Pension Protection Fund.

We are appointed to schemes of all sizes, from a few members to many hundreds. Our schemes are both self- administered and fully insured.

Open Trustees is a member of the Association of Corporate Trustees, the PMI Independent Trustee Group and the Society of Pension Consultants. Three of its directors are full members of the Association of Pensions Lawyers and one holds national positions in the organisation.
We are a subsidiary of Osborne Clarke LLP, the award-winning international law firm.

Our approach to every situation is:

  • Collaborative – Working with other trustees, or as a sole trustee, if required. Working closely with scheme advisers and challenging them where necessary.
  • Cost-effective – We recognise the need for an independent trustee to add value, and we generally charge on the basis of agreed hourly rates, but can agree fixed or capped fees. We plan and budget our costs with the agreement of the employer or co-trustees.
  • Independent – While Open Trustees is owned by Osborne Clarke LLP, the law firm will not provide legal advice to any scheme where we are appointed although we will bring our legal knowledge and expertise to any matter.
  • Knowledgeable – All of our directors are experienced pensions lawyers. Our pensions manager is an associate of the Pensions Management Institute. Our team has substantial practical experience of actuarial, investment and administration issues. We undertake regular training and development programmes.
  • Relationship-centric – For every appointment, a director is appointed to take overall responsibility. He is supported by a named co-director. They are supported by a pensions manager and administrators, and work is always handled at the most appropriate level.

The services we offer

Open Trustees provides a cost-effective, director-led service that helps schemes deal with issues head-on.

Our services are well established, efficient and dependable. They include:

Ongoing appointments

We take appointments to schemes that are ongoing, closed or paid up, where the employer continues to support the scheme. We work closely with the secretary to the trustees, or the pensions manager, as well as with the employer and other professional advisers.

We are frequently appointed to ongoing schemes where the existing trustees have conflicts of interest because they are also company directors or shareholders.

Statutory appointments on employer insolvency

We act as trustee to schemes where the employer has entered insolvency following an appointment by the Pensions Regulator. If a scheme is under-funded, we work with the Financial Assistance Scheme and the Pension Protection Fund on behalf of scheme members to seek compensation.

All of our directors are experienced in handling the pensions issues that arise on corporate insolvency. One of our directors is a registered insolvency practitioner.

We also work with schemes that are sufficiently well funded to secure all members’ benefits and have a surplus that needs to be distributed. That can involve applying to the High Court for approval of a scheme of distribution.

One-off appointments

We accept appointments for specific projects, whether they relate to funding corporate transactions, restructurings, or an employer facing insolvency. We can help represent the interests of the members of the scheme in negotiations, and we also handle projects relating to proposals for schemes to be amended, closed, merged or wound up.

Defined contribution wind up

We are experienced in the winding up of occupational defined contribution arrangements. We are often appointed where an employer has switched from a trust- based to a contract-based arrangement, giving rise to a requirement to wind up the trust-based scheme.

We are also appointed by the Pensions Regulator to wind up schemes where the employer has entered insolvency but also acts as a trustee of the scheme.