As part of our series looking at what firms did to win accolades at the UK Pensions Awards 2016, PP speaks to the Travers Smith pensions team about how their firm won the Pension Lawyers of the Year category.
Interview: Travers Smith
PP: What does it mean to win this award?
TS: It means a great deal to receive this recognition from members of the pensions industry. This is the first year that we have entered awards, so naturally we are very pleased with the result. We believe it is a tribute to teamwork with our clients and teamwork amongst the lawyers across the whole of Travers Smith who focus on advising pension clients.
PP: What do you believe sets you apart from your peers and contributes to this success?
TS: There are many good pensions lawyers out there doing good work for great clients. Perhaps what helps us to get such great results is our determination to find the right solution for our clients.
Sometimes this means testing common assumptions and finding bespoke innovative solutions to get our client to where they want to be. Sometimes it means doing the simpler work well and efficiently. We value open communication and team-work with our clients, so that we can understand their particular needs. We are fortunate to have a fantastic and varied client base and we work very closely with our clients – often for long periods of time. As the challenges facing trustees and sponsors of occupational pension schemes change, we ensure that we have expertise in all the areas in which our clients need advice. We help our clients to map out a route that works for them and we stay with them for the journey.
PP: What are the key challenges facing your pension scheme clients and how are you helping them address these issues?
TS: Funding of occupational defined benefit schemes continues to be a key issue, in part due to continuing low yields. We help our clients (trustees and sponsors) negotiate scheme funding and develop non-cash alternatives that provide greater security for schemes whilst allowing employers to grow their businesses.
Legislative and regulatory change are constant in pensions and there is increased uncertainty about the role that occupational pension schemes will play in public policy on long-term retirement saving. We make sure that we are on top of all the latest developments so that we can keep our clients on the front foot.
PP: How will you continue to improve your services to pension scheme clients over the coming 12 months?
TS: By listening to what our clients want. We are engaged in constant dialogue with our clients about their needs. Each scheme and employer is different and we tailor our service accordingly.
We believe engaging with our peers is important and we play an active role in industry groups and bodies who seek to influence best practice and work with
Government and regulators to make sure that the framework works for schemes, employers and members.
We have a great team of non-pensions lawyers, for example specialists in security arrangements and investments, who have a very strong commitment to pension clients and we are continuing to grow in order to provide the best possible service to our clients.
The past year, with our work on TRW, Lehman and Stena Line, resulted in some great successes for our clients and good outcomes for scheme members.
We are looking forward to achieving similarly great results for our clients over the next 12 months and into the future.
Travers Smith's pensions partners are Susie Daykin, Daniel Gerring, David James, Dan Naylor, Paul Stannard and Philip Stear.
Extract from Travers Smith's original UKPA submission
The MNRPF v Stena Line judgment was the culmination of six years' work by Travers Smith for Stena Line and other current MNRPF employers. They succeeded on every point, most of which were technical, complex and novel. The judgment was a good outcome for Stena Line, who will now pay a fairer share of deficit contributions, and for the MNRPF and its 30,000 members, who will have stronger support from the UK shipping industry. The case also tackled the important question of when pensionable service ends and when a scheme becomes frozen – affecting which companies are obliged to pay towards scheme deficits.
Travers also represented the Lehman Brothers Pension Scheme trustees throughout the landmark Lehman Financial Support Direction (FSD) litigation. A key question, which alarmed international finance markets and insolvency professionals, was whether FSD liabilities give trustees 'super-creditor' status in insolvency. Alternatives were that liabilities fell into a 'black hole', or ranked as a 'provable debt' (supported by the trustees and ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court). The trustees' arguments succeeded at every stage of the litigation and Travers also advised on the successful settlement and the buyout, securing all members' benefits in full.
Travers worked closely with the trustees and TRW to help design and deliver all stages of the innovative and ambitious £3.5bn TRW Pension Scheme liability management project, including 'PIE-outs', ETVs, WULSs, and a bulk transfer to a new scheme. The £2.5bn buyout contract went from first draft to signature in just four weeks and the period from the first member announcement to completion was only six months. Travers' cross-disciplinary team ensured that each element of the project worked as intended despite complex interdependencies.
The UK Pensions Awards 2016 Winners’ Series
- How Hymans Robertson won the Actuarial / Pensions Consultancy of the Year award
- How Capita Employee Benefits won the Employee Benefits Consultancy of the Year award
- How LCP won the DC Consultancy of the Year award
- How Hymans Robertson won the Investment Consultancy of the Year award
- How Travers Smith won the Pension Lawyers of the Year award
- How LCP won the Risk Reduction Adviser of the Year award
- How B&CE won the DC Pension Provider of the Year award
- How The People’s Pension won the DC Master Trust of the Year award
- How Hymans Robertson won the Third-Party Administrator of the Year award
- How LCP won the DC Innovation of the Year award
- How Hymans Robertson won the DC Investment Innovation of the Year award
- How Capita Employee Benefits won the Communication Innovation of the Year award