If you enjoy working in a customer-focused role and have excellent organisational and administration skills, a career as a pension scheme manager could be for you
As a pension scheme manager, you'll ensure that pension schemes operate effectively and sustainably. Your main task will be to manage a pension fund - a large pot of money paid in by companies and individuals over many years to provide benefits in retirement.
You may coordinate schemes that are managed by a company or employer, a benefits consultancy, a public sector pensions provider or an insurance company.
You might also be involved in the strategic development of schemes, developing new schemes or managing related funds.
As a pension scheme manager, you'll need to:
- oversee day-to-day pension management and the administration of funds
- develop pensions policies and pension and benefits packages
- review, discuss and agree fund strategy and structure with the company board, investment managers and other advisers
- ensure that schemes operate effectively and meet performance, quality and customer care targets, as well as complying with industry standards
- calculate the performance and value of funds
- keep up to date with current statutory regulations and monitor changes in the legal situation for pensions providers and developments in pension provision in order to ensure the optimum performance of the fund
- recruit, train and manage a team of pensions administrators
- provide up-to-date reports to trustees and pensions managers
- deal with complex pension claims
- develop communication strategies to promote the benefits of pension schemes
- manage the relationship between the employer (primarily responsible to shareholders) and trustees (representatives of scheme members)
- meet with and encourage communication between actuaries, fund managers, solicitors and consultants
- set meeting dates, prepare agendas and send out minutes
- advise the company board on new and emerging financial issues
- monitor pension scheme deficits and prepare relevant reports
- raise company-wide awareness of pensions-related matters
- contribute to annual and other financial reports
- make recommendations to improve the scheme in response to member feedback and scheme performance.
You may also get involved in developmental activities, such as:
- coordinating multiple company schemes (if you're working for a group of companies)
- researching the financial markets
- finding new business and setting up new schemes.
- You'll need a certain amount of experience to be a pension scheme manager. Therefore, pension manager salaries start at around £25,000 to £28,000.
- With further experience and qualifications you can earn around £40,000 to £60,000, rising to £80,000 for roles such as deputy head of pensions.
- Salaries for directors/heads of pensions for major companies can rise to in excess of £100,000.
Salaries vary according to a range of factors, including the type of employer, experience and qualifications, scheme size, level of responsibility and location.
You may also receive work-related bonuses and a range of other benefits, including access to a company pension scheme, child care vouchers, share save scheme and life assurance.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, you may work extra hours occasionally - to attend evening meetings, for example.
What to expect
- Jobs are available in most cities and towns throughout the UK.
- Self-employment isn't an option if you're working for an in-house scheme, but there are opportunities for more experienced pensions professionals to work on a consultancy basis.
- The job may be challenging due to the level of responsibility and demands of working at a high-profile level in a fast-developing industry.
- You won't usually need to travel or stay away from home overnight. However, if you're working for a company with locations throughout the country, you may need to travel to attend meetings or meet with trustees and fund beneficiaries.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in one of the following subjects may improve your chances:
- business management
Some large companies run pension management graduate schemes and you'll usually need a 2:1 or above to secure a place. Start researching opportunities at the beginning of your final year of study.
You can also enter the profession as a pensions administrator, focusing on the administration of pension schemes and on the processes and details of the scheme, and work your way up to pension scheme manager through a mixture of experience and professional pension qualifications. Relevant qualifications for new and experienced pensions administrators are offered by the Pensions Management Institute (PMI).
You can also get a job at pensions administrator level without a degree, as there are opportunities to take an apprenticeship in workplace pensions.
You'll need to have:
- excellent interpersonal and relationship management skills
- strong communication skills, both written and verbal
- analytical skills and the ability to interpret complex information
- strong influencing and negotiation skills
- a good level of numeracy and IT literacy
- teamworking skills
- leadership qualities
- good judgement and decision-making skills
- organisation and time management skills
- meticulous attention to detail
- the ability to work well under pressure
- common sense and personal integrity.
Those who work in pensions management often have previous experience in pensions administration or pensions consultancy.
Experience in a related role such as accountancy, finance, actuarial work or investment management is also useful.
Look for relevant summer internships or work placements or try to get work as a pensions administrator.
Many pension scheme managers work for large companies and organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors that operate their own occupational pension schemes.
Opportunities also exist with large insurance companies, where you may start work as a trainee and work in different fields before specialising in pensions work, or with investment management companies and consultancies that provide pensions services for, and on behalf of, other companies.
Most graduate positions are based within large companies or organisations. Smaller companies are more likely to operate either externally-managed schemes or stakeholder schemes, with the company secretary or finance director dealing with decision-making. Smaller pensions providers usually recruit experienced pensions staff.
Look for job vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.
Graduate training schemes usually run over one to two years and involve a mixture of on-the-job training, in-house courses and the completion of professional pension qualifications.
Whether you're on a graduate training scheme or not, you'll usually work towards the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision (ADRP). If you work closely with trustees, you could also take the Level 3 PMI Award in Pension Trusteeship (Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Schemes).
Once you've passed the Advanced Diploma and have at least three years' relevant work experience in the pensions industry, you're eligible to become an associate member of the PMI and use the initials APMI after your name.
Undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) to keep up to date with industry developments and enhance your career prospects is essential. PMI provides an online CPD recording system, enabling you to keep track of your learning and development activities.
Other relevant qualifications are offered by organisations such as:
- Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP)
- Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)
- Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA)
- Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA)
You may also receive training on your employer's software packages and to improve your broader skillset in areas such as project management and presentation skills.
There are good career prospects, although pensions departments within companies are often small and you may need to change employer to progress.
With experience, pension scheme managers can manage larger departments or schemes, moving eventually into roles such as deputy head of pensions and, ultimately, director or head of pensions.
You can also move into related areas such as insurance or actuarial work or specialise in a niche area of pension management.
There are also opportunities to work freelance as a pensions consultant.