Pension scheme managers are responsible for ensuring that pension schemes operate effectively and sustainably. Their main function is to manage a pension fund - a large pot of money paid in by companies and individuals over many years to provide benefits in retirement.

Pension scheme managers may coordinate schemes that are managed by a company or employer, a benefits consultancy, a public sector pensions provider or an insurance company.

They may also be involved with defining the strategic development of schemes, as well as overseeing the day-to-day management of pension funds. Developing new schemes or managing related funds may be a feature of the work.

Pensions management is an increasingly important area of work due to the shift in government policy away from dependence on the state pension as the main provider of retirement income.

Responsibilities

Duties vary depending on the type of organisation and level of experience required but typically involve:

  • developing pensions policies and pension and benefits packages;
  • reviewing, discussing and agreeing fund strategy and structure with the company board, investment managers and other advisers;
  • ensuring that schemes operate effectively and meet performance, quality and customer care targets as well as complying with industry standards;
  • keeping up to date with current statutory regulations and monitoring changes in the legal situation for pensions providers and developments in pension provision in order to ensure the optimum performance of the fund;
  • supervising the overall administration of pension schemes;
  • recruiting, training and managing a team of pensions administrators;
  • calculating the performance and value of funds;
  • providing update reports to trustees and pensions managers;
  • dealing with complex pension claims;
  • developing communication strategies to promote the benefits of pension schemes;
  • managing the relationship between the employer (primarily responsible to shareholders) and trustees (representatives of scheme members);
  • meeting with and encouraging communication between actuaries, fund managers, solicitors and consultants;
  • setting meeting dates, preparing agendas and sending out minutes;
  • advising the company board on new and emerging financial issues;
  • monitoring pension scheme deficits and preparing relevant reports;
  • raising company-wide awareness of pensions-related matters;
  • contributing to annual and other financial reports;
  • making recommendations to improve the scheme in response to member feedback and scheme performance.

The work may also involve developmental activities such as:

  • coordinating multiple company schemes if you are working for a group of companies;
  • researching the financial markets;
  • finding new business and setting up new schemes.

Salary

  • As this role requires a certain level of experience, salaries start at around £25,000 per annum plus bonuses and other benefits. Salaries for experienced pension scheme managers are around £40,000 to £60,000 plus bonuses and other benefits, rising to £80,000 depending on qualifications, experience and level of responsibility.
  • Salaries for those with significant experience and relevant qualifications can rise to in excess of £80,000 per annum, plus bonuses and other benefits.

Salaries vary according to a range of factors, including the type of employer, experience and qualifications, scheme size, level of responsibility and location.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours tend to be standard office hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, some flexibility is required and you may need to attend evening meetings, for example.

What to expect

  • Self-employment is not possible for in-house schemes, but there are opportunities for more experienced pensions professionals to work on a consultancy basis.
  • Jobs are available in most towns and cities throughout the UK.
  • The high level of responsibility and demands of working at a high-profile level in a fast-developing industry mean that this job can be challenging.
  • Travel during the day and absence from home overnight may be occasionally required for those working for companies with numerous locations throughout the country.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in the following subjects may improve your chances:

  • business;
  • economics;
  • finance;
  • law;
  • mathematics.

Entry with an HND or foundation degree and entry without higher education qualifications is possible at pensions administration level. Progression to pension scheme management is possible once experience and professional qualifications have been gained.

Although a postgraduate qualification is not required, studying for an MBA may increase your chance of success in the pensions management field, particularly if your first degree is not in a business or numerate subject.

Your career development opportunities may be increased by professional qualifications from the:

Candidates looking for pension management trainee schemes with large companies should start their research at the beginning of their final year of study.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • 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;
  • a confident approach to work.

Work experience

Entrants to pensions management will often have previous experience in pensions administration or pensions consultancy, or in a related role such as accountancy, actuarial work or investment management.

Employers

Many pension scheme managers are employed by large companies and organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors that operate their own occupational pension schemes.

However, 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;
  • investment management companies and consultancies, organisations that provide pensions services for and on behalf of other companies.

Most graduate positions are based within large companies or institutions. 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.

Many entrants to the profession start as pensions administrators and then, by gaining pensions qualifications, develop their career within pensions management.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies commonly handle vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Pension scheme managers will usually work towards the following PMI qualifications:

  • Diploma in Employee Benefits and Retirement Savings (DEBRS);
  • Diploma in Retirement Provision (DRP);
  • Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision (ADRP).

It may also be useful to complete the Level 3 PMI Award in Pension Trusteeship (Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Schemes), particularly if you are working closely with trustees.

Graduate trainee roles, whether with in-house schemes or consultancies and insurance companies, provide exposure to many elements of scheme management. Some trainees in insurance companies, for example, follow a rotation for the first two years and only then make a decision to specialise in pensions or other parts of the business.

Graduates can also enter the profession as a pensions administrator and work their way up to pension scheme manager. This role involves administration of pension schemes and focuses on the processes and details of the scheme.

Pensions administrators work with data and systems management, answering individual personal queries and working within a team. From this role, it may be possible to move into a team leader position. Undertaking further training and qualifications with the PMI is a key element in developing a career in this way.

You can undertake training to improve your skills in areas such as project management or presentation skills, or to learn a particular software package used in your job.

As the pensions industry is so complex, professional qualifications from the following professional associations may be useful:

Reading trade magazines, such as Pensions World, is useful for keeping up to date with changes to the profession and the pensions industry.

Career prospects

Many pension scheme managers undertake the PMI Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision (ADRP). Those working closely with trustees may also have completed the Level 3 PMI Award in Pension Trusteeship (Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Schemes).

Once you have passed the Advanced Diploma and have at least three years' relevant work experience in the pensions industry, you are eligible to become an associate member of the PMI and use the initials APMI after your name.

Undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) is essential for membership of professional bodies and career progression. The PMI provides an online CPD recording system, enabling members to keep track of their learning and development activities.

Membership of organisations such as the PMI and CII is useful for keeping up to date with industry news and for networking and developing industry links through regional and national events.

As pensions departments within companies are often small, it is fairly common to change employer in order to progress. With experience, it is possible to manage larger departments or schemes. A move into a related sector, such as insurance, is also possible. Opportunities exist for experienced professionals to become self-employed pensions consultants.