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Interview with Andrew Dodd

Andrew Dodd retired as a Trustee Director at the end of October, after serving 23 years on the trustee board. We took this opportunity to ask Andrew how he feels the role has changed since he first became a trustee and to find out his plans for the future.

Q: How has the role of Trustee changed over the 23 years you have been a Trustee?

AD: The role was much simpler 23 years ago. As a trustee board we met four times a year and generally managed to deal with everything in those four meetings.

If we look at investments, 23 years ago there were basically two asset classes that pension schemes invested in; equities and bonds. We looked to invest around 70% in equities, primarily UK equities, and the remainder in bonds, predominantly UK Government issued bonds. This balance was consistent with the then member profile.

Now, the Plan invests in a much more diverse range of assets. We invest globally and invest in all sorts of asset classes, for example, infrastructure, social housing, property and many more but all with a degree of certainty as the membership profile has changed.

The other area which has become far more complex is the legislation that surrounds pensions. 23 years ago, there was said to be 500 pages of legislation. Today it is said there is between 50,000 and 70,000 pages and it changes frequently, often incurring implementation costs for the Plan.

The administration side has changed as well. 23 years ago, we were probably paying pensions to around 100 people, and now we pay pensions to over 6,000 with many more likely to start receiving their pensions in the next 10 years.

Q: What about the Trustee Board itself, has that changed much?

AD: Very much so. When I first joined the Board, most trustees were appointed as a result of their role in the Company. For example, the Finance Director and senior HR people generally filled the roles. Over the years these people have stepped down, often because they recognised a conflict between their ‘day job’ and what the trustee was there to do. In their place we now have people who are either professional trustees, or they are genuinely interested in running the Plan and are prepared to put in the effort to educate themselves to a level where, with the support of our excellent advisers, they are confident they are doing the right thing.

Q: What about the demands of the membership - have they changed?

AD: Yes, as I mentioned we are now paying pensions to a lot more people. But also, members are becoming more interested in their pension. This is why the trustees now put a lot more focus on how we communicate and look to make the best use of technology; for example, the Plan website and the member self-service area provided by our Administrator, Equiniti.

People’s circumstances have changed as well, as has the Plan Rules to reflect this. 23 years ago if a member died, any benefits would almost automatically go to a Spouse, if there was not a Spouse, then it was unlikely any further benefits would be payable. Today’s trustees need to think about a much wider range of relationships when considering who should receive any benefits from the Plan. This is why it is so important that members regularly provide updated Expression of Wish details, then if and when the trustees need to determine the benefits payable following a member’s death, they can be confident that they are aware of the member’s recent wishes.

Q: This sounds like it must have taken up a lot of your time. What are your plans now you have retired as a Trustee?

AD: We are currently having our house rebuilt; we are both keen that it should be as environmentally friendly as possible, something that is hard to achieve with a house built 90 years ago. I have read that there are up to 700 separate decisions we will need to take during the build, so that will keep me occupied for a while! I also love walking so I am hoping to get out more and simply enjoy the countryside also with my wife – especially visiting Italy. Then perhaps spend more time volunteering doing practical conservation work on local nature reserves.

Q: Will you miss being a Trustee?

AD: Yes, it has been a big part of my life and I am proud to have served for so long. But what I will miss most is the interaction with the other Trustee Directors and the advisers, they are all extremely professional as well as being great people to engage with. I will also miss the mental challenge and the sense that we, the trustees, are doing right by the membership.

Andrew, thank you for your time today and good luck with the house build.