In an industry lacking in diversity, trustee services firms are raising the bar 

Pardon the Interruption

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mallowstreet partnered with Cardano to identify how DEI considerations feature in trustees’ policy setting, what obstacles they encounter along the way and where the industry needs to improve the most. Given the Pensions Regulator’s calls for more diversity in the industry, it is more important than ever for trustees to start planning their DEI journey. 
 

Most pension trustee boards lack diversity 

 
Three out of four UK pension trustees work at schemes where over 60% of board members are male. Another 70% add that at least four out of fiveboard members have tertiary education.
Most pension schemes also lack age diversity, with two-thirds saying that less than 20% of their board is under the age of 45. This makes succession planning and talent development in pensions very difficult. 

DEI remains a low priority for many trustees 

 
Over half of UK pension professionals report that DEI is a low priority compared to other items on the trustee agenda. Many add that the industry will likely continue to struggle with DEI because of recruitment difficulties.
The regulator set out a detailed action plan to help encourage trustees to increase DEI in the pensions industry. In addition, the pensions industry has access to several external and well-established resources like the Diversity Project’s Culture Guide or the National Equality Standard. Yet despite these being readily available, most trustees are not utilising key DEI guides or standards. 
 
Commenting on these findings, Darren Redmayne, CEO of Cardano Advisory, said: 
 

As our research and own experience at Cardano shows, the pensions community has a long way to go to improve DEI within schemes and the wider industry. Achieving more diverse boards will require continued collaborative effort alongside developing standards and realistic targets that can be understood and achieved.  Positively, our research shows strong willingness to embrace DEI initiatives and wide recognition of its benefit to scheme governance and decision-making - enabling better pensions outcomes for members. 


Trustees agree that embracing DEI will benefit scheme governance as well as members 

 
Two out of three pension professionals see DEI as a way to broaden their team’s skill sets and improve governance and decision-making. Many also support DEI because it helps trustees deliver better value for the members and improve engagement. 
Most of the industry is at the start of this journey, but many are now putting policies in place to help improve DEI. For example, over half of trustee services firms have conducted diversity and inclusion training and 38% have a zero-tolerance policy in place for harassment or bullying. Schemes are also taking action, as 43% of those with a professional trustee have updated member communications to be more inclusive and accessible. 

Conclusion 

 
Our research shows that, while trustees are likely to encounter some growing pains once they start on DEI, they can get ahead of the curve through education and training on these topics. Putting DEI on the trustee agenda, in addition to providing opportunities to historically underrepresented talent, also delivers practical benefits for the industry. 
 
What steps are you taking to improve DEI? For more information, download the DEI Report 2022. 



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