A day in the life... of a Hymans Robertson Wind Up Consultant

11 Sep 2023

Contrary to what the title may suggest, we do not in fact specialise in annoying people or playing practical jokes! Wind up consultants here at Hymans have busy, varied roles advising trustees on the final leg of their scheme’s journey towards ultimate wind up, juggling the demands of multiple projects each at different stages. While no two days are the same, there are a number of common activities that might feature in a ‘typical’ day – wind up consultant, and team manager Eloise Hallett sets out a day in her life…

Planning my day 

As standard I’ll be involved with four or more projects at once, each at different stages, alongside my role as team manager, so planning, planning and more planning is the only way I can keep track of everything and make sure our deadlines are met. I’ll review my reminders and take any actions first thing- everything from dates I’m expecting to receive some data or final pricing from an insurer, reminders to check for progress updates, or prompts to start preparing for an upcoming meeting or presentation. Then, I’ll plan out the rest of my day.

Project oversight

Before getting stuck into fine details and individual actions, it’s important for me to take a step back and consider the overall wind up readiness project as a whole. I like to carve out time to think about the wider strategy behind the project plan on a regular basis. This helps me to direct the project as efficiently as possible, as I can identify what the next areas of focus should be, as well as anticipate any changes I might need to make to the plan.  

Taking this ‘first principles’ look at the project allows me to keep clients and any other stakeholders firmly in the loop. I understand that trustees want to feel in control of the final stages of their scheme’s journey, and so I'm in regular touch to provide updates. Summaries including progress to date, highlighting any issues upfront, and flagging what’s coming over the coming months can really help to reassure trustees, as well as ensure a smooth journey.

Daily progress monitoring 

Having first looked at the big picture, a key part of my role is then to zoom in and help my team stay on top of the countless smaller actions that make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. These actions might sit with insurers, administrators, pensions managers, investment and actuarial advisors as well as scheme lawyers on any given project.  

On a typical day, we would reach out to several different stakeholders across my various projects, to chase up, instruct actions or provide information to keep the overall plan on track. Common examples include arranging legal review of some advice or communications, giving instructions to administrators in data cleansing work requested by a client, and dealing with the insurer to discuss queries or updates on overall delivery.

Keeping in close contact means that any problems can be quickly identified, raised and dealt with. 

If, for instance, an unexpected data issue is found, or a niche legal point is highlighted, my team can build any corrections or mitigation work into the overall project plan straight away and avoid surprises or last-minute delays or stalls down the line.

Drafting advice 

Trustees will have many decisions to make throughout their wind up journey, and we provide training and / or advice to ensure they have enough knowledge on the issue, and available options to make the best, most informed decision possible. I’m currently working on some advice to present at an upcoming meeting in relation to discharging a scheme’s AVC policies – with some scheme specific complexities, I spent some time collating and weighing up the various options and developing a bespoke recommendation.  

Planning ahead, I’ll soon be delivering a ‘buyout balance sheet’ for a trustee board, who are anticipating a surplus on reaching wind up. It’s really important to understand whether there’ll be a surplus or deficit at the end of the journey so that trustees can have clarity on timescales and begin the process of investigating how any surplus could be allocated. My client’s Trust Deed and Rules give the trustees the power to use surplus funds for the benefit of members, which in some cases will be an augmentation to members’ benefits, or a refund to the sponsoring employer. To support with this, my ‘buyout balance sheet’ will not just set out the remaining liabilities against the assets, but it will include a projection of remaining scheme-met expenses. Over time, as the project progresses and fees are incurred and paid, the surplus estimate can be refined – avoiding any changes coming as a shock, and ensuring that the trustees can make a well informed decision about augmentations.  

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