Professional Pensions spoke to EY partner Iain Brown and director Rikhav Shah as part of an exclusive series of interviews with some of the finalists and winners of the UK Pensions Awards. This is what they had to say…
What have been your main achievements as an organisation over the past 18 months?
Our focus, as always, has remained on helping clients improve their funding levels. Over 2020, market volatility has resulted in a wider range of fiduciary manager performance compared to what we have seen historically. During this period, the average funding level improvement of our clients has been in the top quartile, which we like to think provides evidence of the impact of our fiduciary manager selection process.
We continue our drive on improving market transparency on value for money and fees, and with that our clients have continued to see material fee reductions.
What do you believe sets you apart from your peers and contributes to your successes?
Our philosophy is to be uncompromising in providing conflict-free advice by not offering competing fiduciary management or investment consulting services. This allows us to assess fiduciary managers objectively and bring an unencumbered service to our clients.
Additionally, our technology-driven selection dashboard has allowed trustees to navigate through selection processes more easily and efficiently, and make decisions in real-time. This technology leverages our significant research effort, allowing trustees to optimise their requirements of quality, speed and cost, and ultimately produce a successful selection outcome.
How has your business dealt with the challenges of Covid-19?
The coronavirus pandemic has tested schemes' ability to withstand investment and operational risk, and as a result, we have seen a significant increase in demand for evaluation of investment governance and selection of fiduciary managers.
Our team has grown over the period, and we have continued to invest in our people, not only with further training, but also with support on their and their families' wellbeing.
Our extensive use of technology to advise on fiduciary manager selection and monitoring has meant that we have been able to continue to offer trustees the same level of service and insights as we would have in face-to-face meetings.
What are the key challenges facing your pension scheme clients at the current time and how are you helping them address these issues?
Recent market volatility has demonstrated the extent to which funding levels can fall, and the speed with which that can happen. The need for strong investment governance has never been higher; particularly when we also consider the strain that many sponsors are under, coupled with the operational difficulties that many clients continue to face by working in a virtual world. We are working with clients to identify governance solutions that would be the most effective for them to manage investment and operational risk, so that they themselves can focus on broader strategic issues.
ESG issues remain very firmly at the core of our investment thinking, and most trustees now believe that these are risks we face today. In addition to our research of fiduciary managers' ESG risk assessments, we help trustees assess the ESG risks their pension schemes face and design ESG monitoring frameworks.
How will you continue to improve your services to pension scheme clients over the coming year?
We will continue to invest in our people and technology, and drive improvements in the functioning of the UK fiduciary management industry. Transparency is at the core of everything we do, whether that be proposition and value-for-money at the selection stage or performance attribution when monitoring.
EY was shortlisted in the Fiduciary Evaluator of the Year and Sponsor Covenant Provider of the Year of this year's UK Pensions Awards. Find out more about the awards here.
Contact and Corporate Details:
25 Churchill Place,
Tel: 020 7951 8499
Email: [email protected]