What is a Pension Trustee?

There are over 25,000 trust based pension schemes in the UK. A trust-based pension scheme is a workplace or personal pension run by a group of trustees. A pension trustee is a critical figure in the operation and management of trust based pension schemes.

They are responsible for the administration and oversight of these schemes, ensuring that they are managed effectively, in accordance with the law, and in the best interests of the scheme members.

It is the pension trustees’ legal duty to make sure the right processes, systems, people and procedures are in place to manage the scheme, its investments and the risks that can arise.


What is a Pension Trustee?

A pension trustee is a person or a company appointed to oversee a pension scheme. Their role is essentially to safeguard the scheme and its assets on behalf of the scheme’s members.

This includes current employees contributing to the scheme, former employees who have left their money in the scheme, and any individuals who are already receiving benefits from the scheme.

Pension trustees are governed by a wide range of laws and regulations. Their main responsibility is to ensure that the pension scheme is run in accordance with these rules and in the best interests of the members.

This often involves making important decisions about the investment of the scheme’s assets, the payment of benefits, and the general management of the scheme.


What Are the Responsibilities of a Pension Trustee?

Pension trustees have a broad range of responsibilities. This includes ensuring that the scheme complies with the law and its own rules, making decisions about investments, ensuring that benefits are paid correctly and on time, managing the pension scheme’s administration, and communicating with members.

These responsibilities are often summarised as the “fiduciary duties” and are as follows:

  • Acting in line with the trust deed and rules
    • Trustees need to be familiar with these important documents and act accordingly.
  • Acting in the best interests of the scheme beneficiaries
    • This includes all members of the scheme and, if relevant, their dependants. It could also include the employer as they could receive any surplus. Trustees must balance all these interests.
  • Acting impartially
    • They must also ensure that they act impartially, treating all scheme members equally and fairly. This includes acting in the best interests of the scheme’s members as a whole rather than favouring any particular group of members.
  • Acting prudently, responsibly and honestly
    • This area is wide-ranging, but Trustees are expected to act prudently, take advice, manage conflicts of interest, and not profit from the scheme. Decisions should be made considering relevant facts and ignoring irrelevant facts.
  • Powers
    • There will be powers in law and in the governing documents and these should be used advisedly by the Trustees. For example, exercising discretions but also executing their powers in an appropriate process.


Who Can Be a Pension Trustee?

Almost anyone can be a pension trustee. However, there are certain restrictions:

  • They are convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or deception (unless the conviction is spent);
  • They are an undischarged bankrupt,
  • They have been disqualified from acting as a company director;
  • The legal person is a company, and any director of the company has been disqualified from being a trustee.

Trustees are often appointed to the board by the sponsor to the scheme. It is also a legal requirement to have space for one-third of the trustee board to be nominated by the membership. This could often require a ballot or a selection panel.


How to Appoint New Pension Trustees

The process for appointing new pension trustees varies depending on the rules of the individual scheme. However, in general, new trustees are either appointed by the employer or elected by the scheme members.

Once a new trustee has been appointed, they must be provided with all the information and training they need to carry out their role effectively. This includes information about the scheme and its rules, as well as training on their legal responsibilities and duties.

New Trustees must complete The Pensions Regulator’s Trustee Toolkit (or equivalent training) within 6 months of their appointment.

Broadstone has developed an online trustee training tool, the Broadstone Academy, which is a series of online sessions designed for people who are new to pensions to learn the core knowledge required to act as a trustee or deal with pensions for their employer.

The core curriculum of the Broadstone Academy mirrors the Pensions Regulator’s toolkit, brought to life via interactive presentations.


How to Remove a Pension Trustee

Just as with the appointment process, the process for removing a pension trustee varies depending on the rules of the individual scheme. However, in general, a trustee can be removed by the employer or by a unanimous vote of the other trustees, sometimes a trustee may have a term of office and their tenure will expire when the term ends.

It is also possible for a trustee to be removed by The Pensions Regulator if they believe that the trustee is not fit to carry out their role.



Trustees can be personally liable for things that go wrong if they’ve acted in breach of trust. This means the trustee has not acted in accordance with their powers, or has failed to do something they should have done either under the rules or required by law. Trustees are also under joint and several liability which means that they can be held for breach of trust due to the actions of other trustees.

However, it should be noted that where advice is taken when conducting the trustee duty, such instances are rare. Trustees can be exonerated from certain outcomes via the Trust Deed and Rules and also have insurance to help in situations where there is a challenge to the decisions made or pay out if there is a claim. Again, these instances are rare.


Get more advice on Pension Trustees

Providing services to trustees is at the heart of what we do at Broadstone and we work with a diversified range of trustees on a daily basis, helping them to navigate the complex world of pensions. We also assist our clients with the appointment of new trustees, whether that be member nominated or employer nominated trustees.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding trusteeship or any other pension-related issues.

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