Keeping the LGPS Connected
30 Jun 2020
Your virtual LGPS conference during lockdown
On Monday 16th March you were working in your usual way, in your usual environment. A week later the country was in lockdown, and your definition of “usual” had changed drastically.
One previously “usual” aspect of the LGPS was attendance at conferences and seminars. These have traditionally been a valuable forum where the LGPS shows its truly collegiate colours: sharing experiences, asking questions, learning from others. But when we can’t meet in person, how do we maintain that learning?
Keeping you virtually connected
Our Keeping the LGPS Connected series of webinars has aimed to achieve that. Think of it as a virtual conference, with sessions taking place fortnightly instead of all on the same day or two. There have been eight sessions so far, the first being within days of lockdown, on Friday 27th March, and featured 15 speakers in all, mostly from LGPS funds themselves.
Reflections on the virtual conference so far
1. Keeping the key work going
Administration teams have been the LGPS heroes, pulling out the stops to ensure pensions continue to be paid and members are kept informed throughout. This was our focus in initial sessions at least. Since then we have had funds discussing their different circumstances, acknowledging the human effort behind the scenes.
2. Staying in touch with other funds
Speakers have come from a range of funds – England, Wales & Scotland, London and counties, big and small – and from a range of backgrounds – finance, investment, administration, governance and MHCLG. Topics have covered team-working, committee meetings, investment and cashflow management, upcoming regulations, mortality and employer liaison. Questions from attendees are answered throughout, as well as a few audience polling questions in each session.
3. Adapting to the evolving situation
Live polling results act as a litmus test of how the LGPS feels about various issues, and we have 2 or 3 “ask the audience” questions in each session. It is interesting to see how answers to the same question can change in just a fortnight or two. For instance, initial wariness of allowing employers to defer contributions has evolved into a desire for formal policies around the issue.
As you would imagine, face-to-face conferences are not happening any time soon. The PLSA annual Cotswolds event in May 2020 was cancelled, and “Celtic Manor” (now in Leeds) has been postponed from September 2020 to early March 2021. The next major events planned at the time of writing are LGC Scotland in Edinburgh on 22-23 October and the LGC Investment Symposium in Stratford-upon-Avon on 29-30 October (postponed from July).
So our virtual conference continues, and like you we will increasingly turn our focus to the longer-term issues facing funds. Virtual governance and administration will become more the norm, even when there are further relaxations. Investment priorities will be influenced by the global emergence from the pandemic. And as the COVID-19 tide recedes, employers’ covenant strength will become more visible.
Not forgetting the need to learn lessons from our collective experience of the past quarter, to keep us well prepared if the tide comes back in.
It’s all about you
We hope you have managed to attend some of these virtual conference sessions, and we look forward to you continuing to join us. We aim to make these as helpful to the LGPS community as possible:
- Fortnightly sessions so you can fit these in while working in these unusual circumstances;
- Limiting each session to half an hour*, again to help you manage your time;
- Varying the day and time of each session to accommodate any caring responsibilities you may have;
- Keeping sessions focussed on funds and significant others, so you can hear and learn from those working in the same space as you. Attendance is c.100 each time, with representatives from most LGPS funds at any one session;
- Chatham House rules (no recording or follow-up notes) to allow as open commentary and exchanges as possible;
- Varying the content* between sessions so we cover all the key LGPS learning topics.
*When it comes to timing and content we have always been led by you, listening to the feedback received after each session. The vast majority of respondents tell us that half an hour is about right, and we shape future sessions around the requests submitted by funds.
So while we’re on the subject, do get in touch if there is a topic you’d particularly like to see covered, and/or if you would like to take part in a session as a panellist.