A key event for trustee boards are their meetings at which a number of the Scheme duties are discussed and undertaken. Meetings are also usually required for major decision-making. Trustee board members need to be confident that the meetings are carried out in the correct and appropriate manner as well as any pre-/post-meeting activities are completed.
The following questionnaire is designed to assist trustee board members in considering the appropriateness of their arrangements and procedures.
1. Are trustee meetings held with sufficient regularity?
a. It is preferable for the standard trustee meetings to be set and circulated in advance of the beginning of the scheme year.
b. However depending on projects and tasks which require to be dealt with during the year (eg triennial funding valuation and funding negotiations with sponsoring employer) additional meetings may be required for either the full trustee board or a delegated committee. (see separate governance paper regarding delegation.)
2. Are the relevant papers circulated in a timely manner to enable sufficient review as preparation for the meeting and related discussions/decision making?
a. To assist with preparation, as far as possible, papers should be provided early enough to enable consideration ahead of the meeting (rather than on the way or at the meeting) and avoidance of last minute circulation is recommended as far as possible.
b. If papers are not of a sufficient standard and contain enough information to enable the issues to be considered and understood, then this should be raised (if possible ahead of the meeting) and further information/advice provided.
3. Do I consider that I set aside sufficient time ahead of the trustee meeting (and have enough reference material/information) to thoroughly prepare for the meetings which in turn will hopefully lead to meetings progressing efficiently and effectively?
4. Do I (and my co-trustee board members) attend enough of the trustee meetings?
a. Trustees should try to attend as many trustee meetings as possible (and their employer should release them from employment commitments to allow this).
b. Are all trustee board members aware of the notice and quorum requirements for holding meetings and also (if applicable) powers of delegation, nomination, attendance?
5. At trustee meetings, do we spend sufficient time concentrating on the main items for trustees to consider (having prepared sufficiently)? Examples of key items are set out below:
a. Defined benefits – governance, funding and contributions, investment, administration.
b. Defined contribution – governance, administration, investment and member information.
6. At trustee meetings, do we follow the correct process of decision-making?
a. Are we familiar with and adhere to any specific scheme requirements for decision making (both at trustee meetings and by correspondence)?
b. How does the chairman of trustees handle any deciding vote or (if applicable) questions for the chair to consider?
c. Are we familiar with and adhere to how the scheme documentation sets out the ‘balance of powers’ between the sponsoring employer and trustee board (a document summarising these can be a useful document to request), the interaction with regulatory consultation requirements?
d. If the trustee board considers delegation to a sub-committee, are there processes in place to ensure compliance with the scheme’s powers of delegation as set out in the governing?
7. Do we receive relevant advice and information as required?
a. Do we receive regular administration reports?
b. Do our advisers attend sufficient trustee meetings to assist with explanation of relevant information (or receive instructions to progress/provide further information on specific projects)? It is recommended that the trustee board have the opportunity to meet each adviser at least once a year.
c. Do we monitor the performance of our advisers and administrator and are we confident/comfortable asking questions?
d. Is there sufficient opportunity and procedures in place to request professional advice or further information to consider the matter fully?
8. Do we receive draft minutes promptly after the meeting which clearly identify any matters arising and allocating such matters to the relevant party? Do we have any opportunity to feedback comments on such drafts?
If you need any assistance with regards to your scheme governance or other pension legal matters, please contact any member of the Irwin Mitchell Pensions Team.
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