A year ago, when the Professional Trustee Standards Working Group (PTSWG) published the standards for Professional Trustees, there was much discussion about the accreditation process and how it was going to be managed. Whilst the Council of the Association of Professional Pension Trustees (APPT) was to take ownership of the standards themselves, it was clear that there was still much work to be done to identify what would be required of the new accreditation regime. It was also unclear who would be best placed to manage accreditation.
The accreditation regime for professional trustees would have to be closely aligned to the standards. It would have to filter out unsuitable applicants whilst not deterring credible candidates from atypical backgrounds. It would have to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate applicants from both large firms and sole traders.
PMI shares the frustration of the professional trustee sector that the introduction of accreditation has been subject to delay. However, we have been anxious to ensure that an accreditation service should be robust and consistent with the Regulator’s expectations. We are delighted that we are now in a position to deliver accreditation which will fully meet the requirements of all stakeholders.
PMI was keen to offer an accreditation system that was closely integrated with its new state-of-the-art Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This was a model that had the attraction of extensive automation and ease of user interaction, and which built on decades of experience of working as a professional body. PMI is also able to draw on decades of experience as a membership organisation. Its highly professional membership team has a distinguished record in providing first class customer service, and the organisation as a whole has many years’ experience of accreditation.
Accreditation is not a complicated process, and applicants can make the experience work quickly and smoothly by completing some preparatory work before commencing the application process. With some exceptions, they are required to achieve accreditation within six months of commencing the process, so completing examinations before applying will save a great deal of time.
Applicants have a number of stages to complete in order to achieve their initial accreditation.
The first stage is a combined online application form, and Fit and Proper test. The Fit and Proper test has been part of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulatory culture for some years, and has become increasingly common within the orbit of the Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) too. It is, for example, a requirement for anyone applying to become a trustee of a Master Trust. The test includes clearance by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). It is vital that any applicant is able to demonstrate a professional history that demonstrates probity and credibility.
The next part of the application process focuses on a candidate’s skills. Firstly, there is a requirement for an applicant to demonstrate adequate technical knowledge. This requires them to have completed both the Trustee Toolkit and PMI’s Award in Pension Trusteeship (or its predecessor). Evidence of successful completion is then uploaded via PMI’s CRM system. An additional requirement for professional trustees is an assessment of ‘soft’ skills. This presented PMI with a new challenge, and, ultimately, led us to develop a new examination.
Discussions with TPR and APPT left us with specific criteria for a soft skills assessment. We were tasked with developing an examination that would be inexpensive, scalable and available on a frequent basis. This led to the expansion of the existing Award in Pension Trusteeship (APT) into a two-part Certificate in Pension Trusteeship. The new second unit focuses not on technical knowledge but on behavioural competencies, and assesses a candidate’s skills in areas such as negotiation, problem solving and team building. After an extremely successful pilot in January, the new examinations are now available for public sittings. Booking details can be found on PMI’s website www.pensions-pmi.org.uk
Candidates will also be required to provide two references.
On completion of the application process, successful candidates will be given a digital certificate to confirm their accreditation.
PMI will also maintain an online register of accredited trustees.
On an ongoing basis, trustees will be required to complete an attestation to confirm that they remain fit and proper. They will also be required to complete an annual total of at least 25 hours of suitable Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
In spite of the extremely high quality service, PMI will be able to serve accredited trustees at a particularly attractive price. The cost will be £500 pa plus VAT (excluding examinations) for the first three years. Applicants who commit to the accreditation scheme for three years will be eligible for a discount. For applicants who are PMI members, the cost of sitting APT and the new soft skills examination will be £300 each. For non-members, the cost will be £350 for APT and £450 for the soft skills examination. The application process is available now via the PMI website. Find out more by visiting https://www.aptitude-pmi.org.uk.
The new accreditation regime for professional trustees will place heavy demands on those providing professional trusteeship services. It is clear that the accreditation regime itself must be robust, credible and demonstrate the very highest standards of professionalism. We have every confidence that PMI will rise to this challenge.
Director of Policy and External Affairs – PMI