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Interviews

The man supporting MNTs: David Weeks

The man supporting MNTs: David Weeks

Interview by Sebastian Cheek
Sunday 11th June 2017

Association of Member-Nominated Trustees (AMNT) co-chairman David Weeks talks to Sebastian Cheek about remuneration, diversity, lobbying parliament and why pension schemes need member-nominated trustees.

The man supporting MNTs: David Weeks

"Collectively we need to work together to establish trust and confidence in pensions, to encourage people to want to invest more in their retirement provision. So yes, all of us together have a joint role in increasing trust."

David Weeks

Why was the AMNT set up and what’s its aim?

The AMNT was set up in 2010. The two original founding chairs were Barry Parr and Janice Turner. Barry stepped down about a year ago and I was elected as his successor. Janice continues as the founding co-chair. The aim was to establish a network for member-nominated trustees (MNTs) on pension schemes. The thinking was that it’s quite a lonely occupation because you go to your trustee meetings but you’re essentially on your own – and so they felt it would be a good idea to establish a support network. Since then, the organisation’s grown considerably, in particular in the last year or so. We’ve now got just over 700 members representing 500 pension schemes with assets under management (AUM) of around £700bn. We cover about one-third of the total UK occupational pension sector.

What is the average scheme size under your membership?

In terms of AUM, our biggest member is £50bn and our smallest is £6m so we have a good spread of representation. The average scheme size is about £200m. Then in terms of how many trustees each of them have, it’s typically about seven or eight so on the basis that one-third of the total need to be MNTs, we’re looking at two trustees per scheme. In terms of the split between defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC), our membership is about 60%/40% respectively.

Why is it important to have MNTs on a board? Why not just let professionals handle everything?

I think MNTs bring three things. The first is being able to convey what the strategy is in a way lay members can understand. The parallel I draw here is with a new minister who comes into a government department. They aren’t an expert in the field, but the civil servants can’t say to him or her, “You are new to this field, just sign here. This is the brief.” The minister has to not only understand it themselves, but also be able to explain it in ways which will carry the conviction of the members of parliament. So I think MNTs have a similar role with their scheme members. The second thing is the ability to ask the obvious question. Official Pensions Regulator advice says if you’re presented with a complicated mathematical model you ought to be able to understand it before you agree to invest your members’ funds in it. Or, put another way, if it’s too good to be true, it quite possibly is too good to be true.

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