Focus Group: Diversity more than a ‘trend’
We asked a group of European pension funds with total assets of €110bn about governance
Of the 21 funds polled for this month’s focus group, 15 say diversity on a pension fund board is important or very important. “The trustee board should be as diverse as the workforce/scheme membership that the board represents,” says a UK fund.
However, another UK fund says diversity is less important: “Diversity is the ‘trendy’ term of the moment. What is, and has always been, important is ensuring the right people with the right skills and relevant experience are involved.”
On average, the funds questioned have fewer than two women on their board. Just one fund has more women than men on its board. Only four funds say their board is more diverse than others in terms of gender.
Two-thirds of respondents have unpaid trustees/non-executive board members, over half have paid trustees/non-executive board members and a third have paid trustees/non-executive board members in an expert capacity. Of those funds paying trustees/non-executive board members, half state the level of remuneration is set by the trustees/board itself.
Seven funds say trustee board members should be paid in line with their corporate board equivalents.
“Board members should be paid in accordance to their responsibilities and experience. This is not always the case,” states a Dutch fund.
Five funds expect trustees to spend more than one day a week on matters relating to their fund. Six expect between a day per week and a day per fortnight; eight, between a day per fortnight and a day per month; and two, less than a day per month.
Eight respondents agree that requiring pension fund board members to be subject to better training/knowledge and understanding requirements risks leading to a shortage of trustees, but that it is necessary to drive consolidation.
Those polled are evenly split on the ease of recruiting trustees with the right level of knowledge and understanding of the issues their fund faces. The CIO of a Swiss fund says: “We expect trustees to bring both a certain philosophy and an expertise in one of the fields relevant to the fund’s management – real knowledge is difficult to find.”