Defined contribution pensions consulting
Achieving better outcomes for defined contribution (DC) pension scheme members, employers and trustees from our experts in pensions consulting
Our independence allows us to objectively review the whole DC pension market, so you can be assured our advice is conflict-free and that we recommend the most appropriate solutions tailored to your circumstances and those of your members.
We support over 400 employers (SMEs to FTSE100 companies) and trustee boards with their DC arrangements, representing over seven million members and over £27 billion of assets. So you benefit from our technical and market knowledge and our consultancy experience.
Working collaboratively within the firm and with our clients is at the very heart of what we do. We work closely with you to understand your unique circumstances and to help deliver your specific DC pension objectives.
Our governance, engagement and monitoring pension analytical tool assesses contribution structures, benchmarks against the industry, and models various contribution options or benefit outcomes across member groups.Find out more
We supported the scheme in reviewing its DC section (within a hybrid trust arrangement), helping it define the most appropriate approach to delivering valued and cost-effective DC benefit provision.Read the case study
Hard work, time and cost is involved in the day to day operation and oversight of a well run DC scheme plan. And the effort required shows no signs of abating any time soon...Read the blog
The range of defined contribution pension scheme services we offer is intrinsically linked to how we work – our 'ACDC' (analyse, consult, deliver, check) approach.
Analyse is the bedrock to our approach, providing the data analytics and the technical and market knowledge that underpin our tailored advice. Across Consult and Deliver, we work with you to identify the most appropriate solutions for your circumstances and objectives, and then support the delivery of these to your required timelines and preferences. Through Check, we help you to review and maintain your arrangements so that these remain suitable and compliant, with your objectives being met.
Understanding your circumstances is key to our collaborative working approach, and our data analytics unlock insights into your DC pension scheme membership, as well as your wider workforce, highlighting their likely needs. Our robust technical and provider research enables us to keep you updated on relevant changes and ensures our advice is technically sound and market current.
We will work collaboratively with you to ensure that our consultancy advice is tailored to your circumstances and delivered to your preferences. That means liaising with you to understand what makes your organisation/scheme unique – its ‘DNA’ – which includes things like your aims, objectives and red-lines, as well as your values and culture.
Our digital analytical tools enable us to interactively segment your workforce or membership demographics, aiding our tailored consultancy advice by giving insights into their behaviours and likely needs. Our tools help to inform and shape areas such as adequacy of savings, investment design and engagement strategy.
Our GEM (Governance, Engagement, Monitoring) tool allows us to interactively investigate a comprehensive range of factors, enabling greater depth to the insights.
Included within our kit bag is our Gender Pay Gap tool, giving similarly deep analytical insights and available to help you with your statutory corporate reporting.
Our technical research function monitors the regulatory landscape, allowing us to make you aware of forthcoming changes to regulatory requirements and helping you to remain compliant. This centralised resource also ensures our consultants keep their knowledge current and their advice technically sound.
We constantly research developments in the pension provider market, with our independence allowing us to objectively research the whole market and recommend the most appropriate solutions. Our comprehensive research approach includes detailed questionnaires and meetings, with our assessment of key criteria summarised in a digital tool. We also hold strategic meetings with providers to understand their priorities and development roadmaps.
Our collaborative approach, insights and knowledge ensure that we recommend the most appropriate solutions, tailored to your circumstances and objectives. Our experience and expertise means that we can advise on a diverse range of DC pension issues, and across all types of defined contribution pension arrangements. Thereafter, we will support the smooth delivery of the pension solutions to your required timelines and preferences.
We will work with you on all aspects of scheme design, from scheme type to features such as contribution options, investment strategy and pension salary sacrifice. Insights from our data analytics approach support our scheme design advice.
Whilst recognising regulatory ‘encouragement’ that smaller own trust defined contribution schemes not providing value for members either improve or consolidate, we are agnostic of scheme type and will support your preference for provision.
Whatever type of DC scheme you use, you should regularly review the arrangements (see Check). Should you wish to change scheme type or the pension provider you use, we can support you with the considerations; e.g. review of scheme design, provider selection, transfer of assets and subsequent wind up.
There are many moving parts to practical delivery of the transition but our experience will lessen your resource demands and the potential risks, whilst our collaborative approach will ensure you remain fully involved in the strategic decisions.
The Government is encouraging smaller own trust schemes to consolidate to improve member outcomes, and has plans to look at the opportunities for greater consolidation of larger schemes. Should you wish to consider consolidation, we will help you successfully navigate through the various potential challenges.
Our independence is a key strength, and sets us apart from many of our competitors. It enables us to research and consider the whole provider market with complete objectivity, so you can be assured that our advice is conflict free. We will recognise your aims, objectives and red-lines, and will have the best interests of your members at heart, in providing our recommendation of suitable providers.
Our normal approach would be to facilitate presentations to you by shortlisted providers, and thereafter help you with considerations for your selection decision.
We will oversee the implementation of the scheme and any subsequent asset transfer to ease your resource demands, leveraging the provider’s project management services in those areas available for your cost efficiency.
Your scheme’s investment framework should be tailored to your members’ likely needs, and our data analytics provides these insights. Key to the framework is the default strategy; this should be suitable for your typical member, both in the growth phase and in the approach to retirement age. Wider options should cater for targeting specific retirement options, special interests and those members who wish to take a more hand-on approach. Of increasing prominence are the consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and post-retirement investment options for drawdown funds.
Changes to investment strategy and bulk transfers require careful oversight in their delivery, including consideration of transition options to mitigate transaction costs and ‘out of market’ risk. Our DC consultants are supported by our team of investment experts, giving you access to specialists to meet any sophisticated investment needs you may have.
Good outcomes from DC arrangements require members to engage and make appropriate choices at key stages in their retirement savings journey, e.g. deciding to join/stay in, how much to pay in, where to invest and when and how to access pension savings. Effective communications will target specific cohorts with appropriate messaging in an engaging and jargon-free way at the right time and in an accessible format.
Using our digital analytical tools, we can help you to identify areas of engagement need, and to measure the effectiveness of any campaigns delivered. Our specialist in-house creative agency, Drumroll, can support you with a fresh, tailored approach to member communications.
The at-retirement options and framework to support members in making appropriate decisions on when and how to access their pension savings is vital. Value built up over many years of saving can quickly be reduced by members choosing retirement options that, for example, result in high tax charges, uncompetitive annuities and unsustainable drawdown withdrawals.
We can help you to ensure your DC arrangement has a robust at-retirement solution in place, such that your members feel supported and are well-placed to achieve good outcomes.
Whatever type of DC pension arrangement you use, you should regularly review the arrangements to ensure you are remaining compliant with regulatory changes, your objectives are being met and your scheme is keeping pace with market developments and serving your members’ needs. There are legal governance requirements for own trust schemes, and we believe that whilst providers of master trusts and contract based schemes operate strong governance processes, independent governance by employers is critical to achieving good outcomes for members.
We will help you with the governance of your DC pension scheme, irrespective of its type. Our DC pensions consulting team can also support you with checking any areas of concern you may have, such as contribution and automatic enrolment processes.
Our annual governance reviews, deployed in particular for master trust and contract-based schemes, will help you to understand if your scheme and its operation remains compliant, is delivering to your objectives and provides your members with the potential for good outcomes. Our annual governance review tool will enable you to consider your data analytics in an engaging, interactive way, enabling you to make more informed decisions.
We are experienced in supporting trustees with their annual value for member assessments, and we will present our findings clearly in digital format enabling you to quickly identify priority areas in which we believe value can be improved.
We will support you with understanding the new methodology for smaller schemes, and the choice of appropriate comparator schemes for the relative net return and costs and charges assessments.
Trustees are required to report annually on DC governance via the governance (chair’s) statement and host specified information from this and other documents on a publically accessible website. We will support you with these requirements, including the costs and charges illustrations and new net returns reporting required for the chair’s statement and public disclosure, whilst our in-house creative agency, DrumRoll, will support you with the website and its design.
We can also provide you with technical updates and broader trustee training, and give you access to our other specialist areas such as DC investment consultancy and trustee secretarial services.
Our services can be tailored to your requirements, e.g. periodic strategic checks that your approach is compliant or more detailed audits for particular areas of concerns you may have. In our experience, risk of error increases greatly with key changes, such as scheme transition, scheme design, payroll systems and key personnel. Also, employers’ automatic enrolment duties are complex and wide ranging.
Errors with operating DC schemes are best identified and rectified early, and we will support you with appropriate checks and any remedies.
We're committed to helping you with your DC pension arrangements and support framework, so you can deliver good outcomes for members that align to your specific values and objectives, ensuring a crucial part of employee financial wellbeing.
Our unique approach provides you with clear, independent advice – tailored to your circumstances – that you can have complete confidence in.
Mark focusses on workplace wealth (including DC), advising a range of UK businesses on, essentially, anything that employers use to recruit, retain and improve their workforce.
Sonia specialises in providing advice on all aspects of pension investment, including investment strategy reviews, investment manager selection and performance monitoring.