Being a young trustee - valuing diversity and good governance
The PLSA and The Pensions Regulator are supportive of diversity in trustee boards and believe more needs to be done to ensure they meet the needs of pension schemes now and in the future. At Citrus we are proud of our Trustee board, incorporating people from a variety of backgrounds, generations, locations and industry sectors.
Here we interview our youngest Trustee, Tom Foot, 26, from Citrus member section, Scotland’s Rural College and explore how he has made a positive contribution to the board and ultimately to Citrus member outcomes.
Tell us more about your background
I’m from Evanton, a small village in the North Highlands of Scotland, a keen racket sports player and am passionate about outdoor pursuits. I have been ranked in Scotland’s top 50 badminton players and still enjoy playing in competitive matches, as well as going hill walking and fishing.
My background is interdisciplinary, I hold two degrees from the University of Aberdeen, the first being a Master of Arts joint honours in International Relations and History, and a Master of Laws LLM in Energy and Environmental Law. I am continuing my education and intend to start a PhD in Corporate Engagement Accountability and Transparency, looking at international environmental agreements and environmental damage limitation.
I have had various roles since University, including at the European Policies Research Centre at Strathclyde University. I also work as a private tutor in History, Politics and Modern Studies when time allows, and have worked with community centres and as a BP Student Tutor while studying at the University of Aberdeen. I have been at Scotland’s Rural College for around one and a half years, my primary role involves supporting SRUC’s contributions to the Scottish Government Strategic Research Portfolio, as well as supporting SRUC’s Academic Director in his role as Chair of the SEFARI Director’s Executive Committee in my capacity as Secretariat to the SEFARI Director’s Executive Committee.
How did you come to be a Trustee of Citrus?
I was elected as a Member Nominated Trustee Director of Citrus in July 2018.
Intrigue and thirst for knowledge were two things that drove me to become a Trustee. My father has also been both an employee and employer nominated trustee for his employer’s pension scheme. He helped shed some light on the responsibilities and value to be gained from trusteeship.
What does your role involve?
In my role as Member Nominated Trustee Director of Citrus, I attend quarterly board meetings where updates on the overall performance of the plan, as well as the different sections, are given by our advisers, Hymans Robertson. The board values good governance and having an effective strategy to deliver better outcomes for members and sponsors. In all the meetings I have been involved in so far, we have looked at further improvements to the plan and keeping aware of updated policy, legislation and trends.
Day-to-day the Trustees deal with discretionary cases involving various members’ benefits and may attend sub-committee meetings held outside of the quarterly board meetings to address various projects. Citrus trustees are encouraged to attend training and increase knowledge around pension schemes, the master trust landscape and tools to improve governance and compliance.
Citrus runs webinars to help trustees of external schemes and other pensions industry professionals to engage in the changing climate of defined benefit pensions and understand the benefits that “master trusts” like Citrus can provide. I actively participate and feedback on these webinars, as well as undertaking the Pensions Regulator’s Trustee toolkit modules and other forms of training offered by the PLSA and PMI.
What have you gained from your time so far?
I wanted to learn more about pensions, how the scheme operates and to experience, learn and immerse myself in something I valued a lot but knew little about. It has been interesting to look at the wider pensions landscape, focussing on regulation and governance. With Citrus there is a focus on policy as well with the changing landscape involving master trusts, superfunds and wider consolidation. It has been exciting for me to see the evolution of this landscape, even in the short time I have been with Citrus.
The amount of time, experience, knowledge and effort that goes into ensuring your pension is protected, and that adequate funding and provision is in place to monitor and adapt to changing environments, really is impressive with Citrus. This experience, insight and knowledge is invaluable to me and can be transferred to other areas of life. My involvement in Citrus has helped shape ideas around my PhD, as well as feeding into my various roles at Scotland’s Rural College.
What do you think you have brought to the board?
One of my main aims in joining Citrus as a Trustee was to bring something different to the board, to show the younger generation that stereotypes can be challenged. Engaging with something like your pension is incredibly important. Internationalism, the blurring of borders and a more mobile world means greater opportunities for all, it’s worth putting yourself forward for those opportunities even if you doubt your suitability.
I don’t shy away from getting immersed in Trustee meetings and have built up a good rapport with the board and team of advisers. I am a very strong promoter of the equality and inclusiveness of the Citrus scheme and hope to encourage other young professionals to take a greater interest in their pensions and increase knowledge and engagement in their own pension schemes.
In taking Citrus forward and looking at consolidation in particular, I hope to engage with as many elements of the pensions world as I can, promoting the ideals, values, structures, governance and future proofing ideas that ensure that the Citrus scheme can continue to grow, evolve and serve its members in a rapidly changing environment.
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