5th August 2023
One of the interesting aspects about a career in pensions are the many fields of work opportunities available, including;
Pensions administrators are responsible for managing pension schemes for a company’s employees. They maintain the records of those within a pension scheme and need to ensure that contributions are invested correctly and that accurate calculations of benefit entitlements are made. They handle day-to-day operations, such as processing member data, making payments to members, and answering member queries. They need to be effective communicators, as they will need to explain scheme entitlements to scheme members and their dependents. Empathy plays an important part: benefits can become payable on the death of a family member and sensitivity is necessary on such occasions.
Pensions managers manage a team of administrators to ensure that accurate member records are maintained and that the correct benefits are paid as and when they fall due. A pensions manager needs a comprehensive understanding of the various laws and regulations affecting pension provision and will need to liaise effectively with the pension scheme’s sponsoring employer, its trustee board as well as a range of professional advisers and service providers.
Pensions consultants advise trustees and employers about the management of their schemes. They ensure that clients’ schemes remain compliant and are run in an efficient and effective manner. Pension consultants help organisations to design, implement, and manage their pension plans as well as provide advice on topics such as investment strategy, risk management, and benefit structures.
Consultants need to be effective communicators and can perform complex calculations. They must also be skilled in research and analysis. To find out more, read the 'Pensions Consultancy' article here.
Trustees bear responsibility for the governance of pension schemes. Whilst the majority of trustees are lay people appointed to the role by the scheme’s employer or elected by scheme members, there is a growing cohort of professionals. They bring expertise usually developed in other industry roles and are typically actuaries, lawyers, investment consultants and other industry professionals who have moved into a second career. There are also some professional trustee firms who have begun to take on graduate trainees with a view to developing them into a lifelong career in trusteeship.
Investment consultants advise trustees on the assets trustees hold to pay members’ benefits. They advise on both investment strategy and the individual assets that trustees should own. They assess the investment opportunities available to the pension scheme and make appropriate investment decisions. They are responsible for ensuring that the pension scheme is financially stable and can meet its obligations to its members. In addition to a detailed understanding of economics, investment consultants need to be skilled in explaining complex ideas to clients.
The pensions industry also provide specialist roles for lawyers and accountants. Pensions law is extensive, and trustees’ legal advisers explain changes in the law and help clients remain properly compliant. They help trustees and employers amend their Trust Deed and Rules when the law requires this to be done and advise when the scheme needs to be restructured. You can find out more about this field of work here.
Accounting and Finance
Pension schemes need to be audited on an annual basis. As with other forms of accountancy, pensions audit requires a good head for figures and an ability to interact effectively with other professionals who advise the trustee board.
IT & Systems
The administration of a modern pension scheme requires the maintenance of sophisticated Information Technology (IT) systems. IT professionals working in pensions need to be able to adapt computer systems in order to accommodate schemes’ constantly changing design requirements. They also need to ensure that IT systems remain robust and secure. More details on this can be found by reading the 'IT & Systems' article here.
In conclusion, a career in pensions offers an opportunity to work in one of a range of different professional disciplines. Each career path has its own distinctive characteristics, but each requires professionals who are keen, dedicated and able to interact effectively with a range of other people whose input is vital if people are ultimate to receive the benefits they have worked for so hard over the course of their working lives. A desire to complete professional examinations will enable enthusiastic young people to reach the top of their chosen path and to enjoy a career that provides personal fulfilment as well as handsome financial reward.
Visit Pension Careers’ website for current vacancies within each of these fields.
About the Author
Director of Policy & External Affairs
Tim Middleton has worked in the pensions industry since 1987. His roles have covered consultancy with Bacon & Woodrow (now Aon), Mercer and Barnett Waddingham.
He is currently Director of Policy and External Affairs for the Pensions Management Institute (PMI), where he works extensively on the Policy and Public Affairs Committee and provides input into PMI’s education and events programmes.
He also writes frequently for the pensions press. He is a Fellow of the PMI and holds the CII’s Diploma in Financial Planning. He is a past chairman of the PMI’s London Group.