The Pensions Management Institute (PMI) has set out proposals to overhaul its membership and qualifications structure in a bid to remain relevant in the future.
Under the plans, the institute said it would rationalise its membership grades into four levels - student, professional, associate, and fellow. The new professional grade of membership will be a merger of the PMI's existing certificate and diploma grades.
It also said it would change its qualifications structure in a bid to make them more inclusive - opening up five separate routes to fellowship: retirement provision, pensions administration, trustee, benefits, and advice and guidance.
PMI chief executive Gareth Tancred said the PMI had conducted an extensive consultation process as part draw up its proposals - and said both its board and advisory council were happy with the plans - but he noted the plans were not yet final and it would be consulting its membership further on the plans over the coming weeks.
Tancred said it would then make any changes needed before launching a wider communication exercise on the plans over the summer and hopefully implementing the new structure this autumn.
How the PMI is aligning its membership and qualifications to career paths and member grades
Source: Pensions Management Institute
Tancred explained: "We felt it was time to look at the whole structure, redefine the routes to fellowship, try and make them more inclusive, and to better match people's career aspirations."
The PMI said that, when it looked at its membership structure, it also found it to be very complicated. It noted that most professional bodies had just two or three stages of membership - something like student, associate and fellowship - alongside an experience-based route to membership and corporate membership.
Tancred noted: "We have a really convoluted route - if you add them all up, there are something like nine different member grades, which seems way too many."
The benefits of the new structure
Tancred said by proposing these changes, the PMI was hoping to make it easier for people to understand its membership structure and to make its qualifications more inclusive - adding that he believes the proposed structure had benefits for students, the companies that put students through exams and for trustees, as well as for existing certificate and diploma grade members, associates, and fellows.
He said the structure would offer students the ability to create better career paths as well as the ability for all students, not just those on pensions administration or benefit consultancy roles, to reach fellowship.
Tancred said companies that put students through exams would be better supported under the plans with better defined career paths and exams that are relevant to a wider range of roles.
He also said the new routes to fellowship would also create a diverse mix of senior members more representative of its membership and the industry at large - giving the institute both better representation on its advisory council, board and in its working groups as well as enabling the PMI to have a greater influence on behalf of members.
Tancred added those currently at certificate or diploma membership level - the grade set to be replaced by the ‘professional' level membership - would also have the opportunity to accelerate to fellowship, something that was not an option before as they would have had to start the advanced diploma from scratch.
He added the new grade would also give them enhanced professional status and better representation within the institute, noting that the PMI might replicate its fellowship network for its professional members if there was interest.
Finally, Tancred said trustees would benefit from the opportunity to achieve fellowship; the removal of duplication of fees; a better defined career path as well as the opportunity to stand on the PMI's board and advisory council.
The PMI said it was particularly keen to consult further on these changes to reassure members about the changes - with Tancred noting around 480 people had attended webinars outlining the changes over the past week and further telephone consultations taking place over the coming month.
In particular, he said PMI fellows should be reassured that fellowship would remain at the same high standard - that there would be no "dumbing down" or making the qualifications easier and that the advanced diploma exams would continue to be mapped to the nationally recognised qualifications framework, particular for levels three to six.
And he said there may also be concerns among those who are currently partway through qualifications such as the advanced diploma.
Tancred said: "We want to reassure people that there's no strict cut-off point. We will see you through to the end and anything new that we're going to do will be run alongside to make sure that we don't leave anybody behind - no learner is going to get left behind in their learning."