Posts by Alan

Alan Collins

Alan Collins

Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence he provides actuarial, funding and investment advice to trustees and sponsors of ongoing defined benefit schemes.
Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, scooped their third award of the year last night at the 2015 Workplace Savings and Benefits Awards. The company was awarded the Pension Consultant of the Year title for their ‘Spence Approach’* for defined benefit (DB) pension schemes at a ceremony at London’s Royal Garden Hotel.

Spence were recognised amongst their peers for their work, most notably their innovative approach to Defined Benefit (DB) scheme management, and the role they have played in helping schemes complete DB to DC pension transfer requests.

Alan Collins, Director at Spence & Partners, commented: “It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the primary objective of a pension scheme is to provide accurate benefits and information to members. Our technology, with robust systems and procedures, goes a long way to improving scheme management but it’s what we do with it and the impact it has had on our clients’ schemes which matters most. All schemes, no matter their size, now have access the same level of analysis and advice that is usually reserved for only the largest of schemes. Ultimately giving trustees and sponsors the confidence to manage their schemes towards an end goal.”

Collins added: “Being recognised at the Workplace Savings and Benefits Awards highlights that we are meeting the needs in the market and challenging the manner by which consulting services are delivered within the pensions industry.”

This award follows Spence & Partners’ success with the Consulting Innovation of the Year award at the 2015 UK Pensions awards in May and the Pension Scheme Administrator of the Year title at the European Pensions Awards in June, both again for the ‘Spence Approach’.

WSB Award 2015 pic

Alan Collins

I read with a sigh, but not much surprise, that many employers are failing to engage with the retirement process of their employees. The headline from the Close Brothers survey, as reported in Professional Pensions, was that three in ten employers do not know where employees were getting information on the April 2016 pension reforms.

There also seems to be some indication that the fanfare and blast of publicity behind the launch of Pension Wise needs to be followed up, with a third of employers confirming they did not have a clear understanding of how the new service could help retirees.

The story underneath the headline was certainly not all bad. Read more »

Alan Collins

When attending the recent Actuaries Pensions Conference in Glasgow, I heard behavioural change expert Nick Southgate suggest that maybe the name ‘pensions’ was the thing holding pensions back.

I doubt this message made it all the way to Downing Street, but today’s budget suggests George Osborne and his treasury team are having similar thoughts.  The fact that today’s “pensions” green paper was issued by HM Treasury says it all.  This is not about pensions, it is about tax.

Read more »

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today commented on The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) annual defined benefit funding statement 2015.

Alan Collins, Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence & Partners, said: “The regulator’s funding statement is now a firm fixture in the pensions calendar and this year’s instalment has given trustees, sponsoring employers and advisors plenty of food for thought.  It is also clear that 2015 valuations will contain more bad news than good.  The regulator’s own analysis shows that ‘despite all major asset classes having performed well and schemes having paid £44 billion in deficit repair contributions over the last 3 years…many schemes with 2015 valuations will have larger funding deficits’ and that ‘most schemes will set funding strategies based on lower expected returns than at their last valuation’. Read more »

Alan Collins

Glasgow-based pension consultants and actuaries, Spence & Partners and its sister firms Dalriada Trustees Limited and Veratta have moved their Glasgow operation to the city’s Culzean Building.

Following expansion of the firms’ UK-wide business and growing staff numbers, they have re-located from their previous offices at West Regent Street taking the 4,700 square foot 6th floor of the historic building, located at the junction of Renfield and St Vincent Street in Glasgow city centre.

Barclay Gilmour Partners provided consulting advice on the move.

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today advised that defined benefit (DB) trustees need to gear up to use the power they can now have at the touch of a button.

Alan Collins, Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence & Partners, commented: “With Pensions Freedom Day capturing the headlines, it would be easy to think that DB schemes have been left behind. But actually the development of technology in the past year has been such that trustees now have the potential to operate their schemes in a much more effective and efficient way.

“With the right system, trustees can now have daily valuation figures and actuarial analytics based on live administration data, daily asset feeds from investment managers and projected future cashflow information at their finger tips.  The days of waiting for actuaries to provide complex reports and calculations are over – it is up to trustees to ensure they have the right processes and structure in place to use up to date information and speed up their decision making.” Read more »

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, scooped the Consulting Innovation of the Year award at the prestigious 2015 UK Professional Pensions awards last Thursday (7 May). The awards, which are in their 18th year, were presented at a gala dinner at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel hosted by comedienne and writer Sandi Toksvig.

The close fought category saw Spence & Partners, judged by a panel of senior scheme managers, trustees and advisers, come out on top for their innovative approach to Defined Benefit (DB) scheme management, which was originally launched in May 2014. Alan Collins, Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence, commented: “We’re incredibly proud of the ‘Spence approach’ and to be recognised at the 2015 UK Pensions Awards is fantastic for challenging the archaic manner by which actuarial services are delivered within the pensions industry. Pension schemes are no longer working to an indefinite time horizon, where a check once every three years to ensure the funding plans are broadly on track is sufficient. We believe our approach has revolutionised the way our clients’ pension schemes are run giving them access to the kind of analysis and advice that were previously reserved for only the largest of schemes.” Read more »

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners latest blog for Pension Funds Online –

The number of firms offering daily valuation tools has risen significantly in the last 12 months and many pension scheme trustees now have access to real time updates of their funding position.

This is a step change from the days when accurate figures were available once every three years, fifteen months after the effective valuation date, with an approximate roll forward provided once a year between valuations.

Whilst each consultancy firm extols the particular virtues of their system, is it time to take a step back and ask whether trustees are actually getting the most they can out of their spend on these tools? Read more »

Alan Collins

The clock ticking down to the end-of contracting out is getting louder and louder.  With just over a year to go, many trustees and administrators are getting their houses in order by completing the reconciliation of their records with those held by HMRC.  However, many more are not.  A recent estimate indicated that, on average, around 5,000 data queries a day would need to be resolved in order to complete reconciliations in the desired timescale.

For contracted-out schemes that are already closed to build up of future benefits, there are no excuses for brushing reconciliation exercises under the carpet.  Schemes which are open to accrual can also progress matters in advance of the end of contracting-out on 6 April 2016, using HMRC’s Scheme Reconciliation Service.

This is an exercise that must be done and trustees and administrators should take immediate action to complete any outstanding tasks.  The resource in an already stretched HMRC team will wither on the vine from 2016 until December 2018 when all individuals will be written to confirming their contracted-out pension entitlements.  Failure to act now may leave schemes carrying additional liabilities which they cannot prove belong elsewhere.  It is therefore also in employers’ interests that trustees complete the required tasks. Read more »

Alan Collins

So, there will be no quiet budget for pensions then.  It would seem that Mr Osborne’s rabbit is already out of the red box.  The pretence of “leaks” has been set aside with Mr Osborne confirming some details of this week’s announcements already.

It is therefore expected that individuals will be able to cash in annuities for a lump sum from April 2016 onwards (assuming Mr Osborne and his chums are in situ to make the changes  – that being said, such populist moves are hard for others to ignore and the extension of pension freedoms seems inevitable).  Mr Osborne is quoted as saying:

”It’s all part of trusting people who have worked hard and saved hard all their lives…. By changing the law we are trusting people who have worked hard and saved hard all their lives.” Read more »

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