Greater diversity and inclusion can aid pension scheme effectiveness, says PLSA survey

Greater diversity and inclusion in the industry can improve decision-making and help with attracting and retaining talent, a Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) survey has revealed.

In the survey of pension schemes, the vast majority (84 per cent) made the claim with most believing it will also best represent members’ interests. Of those surveyed, 91 per cent agreed it will improve decision-making and attract and retain talent while 89 per cent agreed that diversity can improve the representation of members’ interests.

However, there were mixed views as to the diversity of pension trustee boards, with just over quarter saying it is good (28 per cent), a third saying it is poor (31 per cent), and another third saying it is average (35 per cent). 

Currently, age, gender and social background are seen to be better represented, while disability and ethnicity are perceived to be least well represented, with many saying they are not at all well represented. Even amongst the better represented groups (e.g. gender) a substantial number feel that they are not very well (28 per cent) or not at all (10 per cent) represented.

From this, most believe the make-up of the Board of Pension Trustees needs to be more diverse (65 per cent), with many saying it will help them to innovate (82 per cent) and more closely reflect their membership (64 per cent).

To date, almost half (48 per cent) said they have no specific strategic objectives around diversity and/or inclusion, of which few had a plan in place (12 per cent). Among those with no plan in place, the vast majority do not know when they will put a plan in place. A quarter have strategic objectives in place, with recruitment and training being the main focus.

The PLSA aims to boost diversity – in its broadest sense – not only throughout the pensions industry but also by encouraging pension schemes to use their influence to draw good diversity practices up through the investment chain with their service providers. It also strives to give a platform to diverse pension voices across all of its conferences.

Julian Mund, Chief Executive, PLSA, says: “Our survey shows that the pensions industry recognises that it needs to do much more to improve diversity and inclusion and are positive about the benefits for schemes and members of doing so – but there’s a long way still to go.

“It’s vital that pension schemes have the right people in place throughout the organisation and to do that you need a wide range of skills, backgrounds and outlooks to ensure all members interests are at the heart of decision-making processes.”