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, 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 »

Alan Collins

Spence & Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today announced their appointment by the Leighton Opticians Pension Scheme for their fully integrated DB scheme management service. The service includes actuarial, consultancy, administration, payroll, treasury and accounting functions.

Laura Cumming, Consultant at Spence, commented: “The Trustees of the scheme were very clear from the outset that developing an integrated approach to managing their scheme was crucial to handling both their ongoing commitments and planning for the future. As our technology platform provides immediate access to funding information, based upon live administration and investment data, the trustees will be able to become much more proactive with funding decisions and scheme management plans.

“Combining everyday functions with funding information allows all scheme activity to be run from the same base. This removes one of the unnecessary elements of modern advisory services – the transferring of data cuts for funding calculations. This is an outdated and lengthy process for a modern industry that no longer fits with the needs of schemes to act quickly and decisively.” Read more »

Alan Collins

First published in PMI News, December 2014

With 2014 bringing about remarkable changes for the UK pensions industry, the spotlight on sponsoring employers has never been brighter – so what are the major issues companies need to tackle in the new pensions world? We discuss the impact of recent announcements around staff communications, the move to collective defined contribution (DC) proposals and the code of practice implications on involvement in scheme funding – perhaps bringing de-risking back into focus for many employers. With non-compliance and errors in automatic enrollment set-up at high levels, as well as the staging of increasingly smaller firms, this issue remains firmly on the table for many as well.

Download The December PMI News Article

Alan Collins

Spence and Partners, the UK pensions actuaries and administration specialists, today announced the appointment of Richard Smith as Consulting Actuary.  Smith will have a UK wide focus and service clients across Spence offices in Glasgow, London, Bristol and Belfast.

Commenting on the appointment, Alan Collins, Head of Corporate Advisory Services at Spence and Partners, said; “As an organisation we are dedicated to helping guide and empower clients to tackle the demanding challenges they face when running their schemes. This has never been more prevalent following the changes announced in the budget this year and those that lay ahead in implementation, not to mention any impacts surrounding the 2015 election. We continuously strive to enhance our own expertise to benefit our clients and the appointment and retention of expert staff is key to that.  Richard is an experienced and talented advisor and as our business continues to grow throughout the UK, his broad spectrum of expertise will further enhance our service and deepen our relationships with both our sponsoring employers and trustee clients.”

Prior to joining Spence and Partners, Richard formerly held senior posts in Aon Hewitt and Towers Perrin and has a high level of experience working with trustee boards of FTSE 100 and other global multinational companies. He has advised clients on a range of pensions change projects including switches from Defined Benefits to

Defined Contribution and Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE), benefit changes resulting from M&A activity, high-earner taxation issues and the implementation of the new employer duties surrounding automatic enrolment.

Alan Collins

It is not often a television advert makes me sit up, take notice and shout “No!….” at the box in the corner.  One did recently, and perhaps it says as much about me and my long learned approach to data security.

Over the past three years or so, our company has introduced a rigorous and robust approach to data security and information management.  This has culminated in us being one of the very few pension companies to have obtained ISO 27001:2005 accreditation and recently being (we think) the first in our industry to obtain the updated ISO 27001:2013 certification.  Is has taken time, significant investment and the buy-in of all staff to engrain the proper processes and procedures into our day to day work.  It is something we are very proud of.  Among the many requirements are:

  • Ensuring password protection of personal data being sent to external parties;
  • The enforcement of “complex” passwords for all staff logging in to our systems;
  • Clear-desk policy (not easy); and
  • The proper disposal of confidential waste.

Now, take a look at Nat West’s recent “Goodbye unfair banking, Hello NatWest” advert.  Skip past the tired parents waving goodbye to the unruly young party guests, the elderly couple waving off their raucous rock band neighbours, the father waving away his daughter’s bad-boy boyfriend and the lucky couple waving off the torrential rain on their way to a sunshine holiday.   The culmination of the advert is your typical “man in the street” rifling through a number of “tempting” new customer offers that have been sent to him by “other banks” in the post.  He pauses for thought, tosses the offer letters in the bin and wanders smiling into a shiny local NatWest branch.

“No.  What are you doing?”  I think to myself.  You’ve just thrown a goldmine of personal information into a public dustbin.  Are you mad?   Address information on the outside, possibly further personal data on the inside.   Take them home, shred them! Read more »