COVID-19 Pandemic update

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty in the UK and across the world. Spence is working proactively to maintain a high level of service to our clients while ensuring that we provide a safe and healthy environment in which our colleagues can operate effectively.

We are proud of how we have coped with the challenges of the pandemic so far, however we are not complacent. We would like to reassure you that Spence continues to actively monitor the changing circumstances caused by the pandemic and is taking steps to reduce and mitigate the risks to our service, clients and colleagues.

This statement provides a summary of some of the actions we have taken in the last few months and outlines our future planning to ensure that our services are affected as little as possible.

What we have achieved

Apart from a very small number of colleagues working in our Belfast office to deal with our critical mail, everyone at Spence has been working at home since 16 March 2020. Our systems and processes are working well, and our services have not been affected. Our current operating configuration has proved stable and can remain in place for an indefinite period.

Spence continues to be in good financial shape with adequate cash reserves and no borrowing. We have not had to furlough any colleagues – in fact our group of companies has grown its headcount by successfully onboarding a significant number of colleagues at all levels from director to placement student since March 2020 and we anticipate that our group headcount will reach 200 by the end of 2020.  In Spence’s 20th anniversary year this is a significant milestone which we are very proud of.

Spence knows our strength is in our colleagues and we have ensured that they have been provided with the support, equipment and technology they need.  Communication and investment in technology has been at the heart of that strategy with an increased focus on employee well-being, 1:1 and group communication forums, and ensuring there is still a place for informal social connections even within a remote working environment. 

Our early move to a remote working set-up helped protect the health of our colleagues and Spence has seen relatively low levels of absence. As such, our productivity has been effectively maintained and we have continued to meet our service level agreements during this testing time. 

We have also continued to develop the technology we use to provide our service to you –

  • Bringing forward the use of ID verification technology
  • Rolling out a platform for external and internal meetings
  • Introducing the use of AdobeSign to electronically sign documents
  • Continuing to develop a phone and web based member app for pension schemes
  • Increasing the use of webinars to share knowledge with our clients and colleagues
  • Bringing forward a programme to replace laptops for our colleagues to ensure they have the most effective equipment

Spence has ensured that our data protection measures remain robust during this prolonged period with the majority of our staff working from home, including implementing a programme of training on cyber security.

We have also successfully completed assessments by external auditors under our ISO 27001:2013, ISO 9001:2015, and Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Quality Assurance Scheme accreditations; proving the continued robustness of our processes.

We have been in contact with our service providers to understand and discuss  their arrangements in response to the pandemic to ensure any risk that disruption of these services may cause to our business is minimised.

Our continued planning in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

A working group within the business continues to closely monitor the situation in the UK and beyond and its potential effect on the economy, our Business and our service.

Due to the current national guidelines to work from home if possible, our offices currently remain closed. Our working group has undertaken detailed planning for a staged return of colleagues to our offices, starting with a small number initially. However, we are taking a measured and prudent approach to this planning and will only re-open our offices when we feel it is safe to do so – as it stands, we do not have an established timeline.

Given the current guidelines, our preference is for remote meetings with clients and professional contacts. However, our colleagues will discuss the possibility of in-person meetings if requested. We have issued guidance to our colleagues in relation to in-person meetings and expect these only to take place in a strictly controlled environment where adequate safety measures have been put in place to protect the health of all the attendees. We would be grateful if you would please consider this if requesting an in-person meeting.

We are confident that our success so far in maintaining our service to our clients and supporting our colleagues will continue in the face of the future challenges.

Communication

We will continue to update you on the actions we are taking and the position on your pension scheme as the situation continues. 

Please do continue to contact us as normal if you have any questions at all.

I am happy to take calls on my mobile telephone 07802 403013 or emails to to brian_spence@spenceandpartners.co.uk if you have any urgent concerns.

Brian Spence

October 2020