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Pensions trade body plots gender and age diversity push

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The UK’s pension fund trade body is to publish a collection of essays next month as the first stage of a wider effort to improve diversity in the industry.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) also plans to publish a guide for pension funds and host a “women in leadership” course in the coming months.

Separate research published today by Aon Hewitt and Leeds University Business School showed that the average age of trustees was 54, and the majority are aged between 50 and 70 years old. Of 197 trustees surveyed, 81% were male.

The research showed the sample group to be “highly educated and financially literate”, Aon Hewitt said.

Lesley Williams, chair of the PLSA, told IPE: “Diversity applies to both investment and people. We’re looking to encourage diversity on trustee boards as well as pension executive boards.”

Of the PLSA’s “monograph” book, Williams said: “There will be stories to make you smile, and there will be some that prompt some soul-searching. There will be views and experiences from key figures in the industry.”

The title of the book is yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to launch in early March.

Also in March, the PLSA will host its annual investment conference in Edinburgh where the theme will be “diverse investments, diverse perspectives”. Williams will chair a session on the topic of diversity during the three-day event, and she said the PLSA had encouraged speakers and sponsors to consider the theme when planning their activities and material.

A guide for trustees on diversity is also in the pipeline, Williams said.

“A lot of work has been done on the issue but no one has ever applied it specifically to trustee boards,” she said. “Just looking at gender, governance boards are on average 83% male.”

The PLSA’s work will not just focus on gender balance, but also the age range of trustee boards.

Williams said: “Being on a trustee board can be a development opportunity. A younger perspective can be really useful.”

“If you have an election process [for new trustees], perhaps you need to look carefully at that, and how you bring people in,” she added. “You do have to go looking for people. You need to invest time.”

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