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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Conference preview: Pensions

Chairman’s preview

This year’s Pensions conference takes place in the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire, the ‘Paris of the North’ and home to Royal Birkdale championship golf course. The nickname has an intriguing history. Napoleon III, nephew and heir of Napoleon I, president then emperor of France between 1848 and 1870, spent two years in exile in Southport after escaping from jail in France following the failure of an attempted coup in 1840. So taken by the broad tree-lined boulevards, covered walkways and arcades that characterise Lord Street, he had the centre of Paris, specifically the area around Boulevard Haussman, redesigned in its style.

Our 2010 conference theme was ‘The revolving world of pensions — adapting to constant change’. If anything, the pace of change has accelerated since last June. This has been driven by fundamental changes in the global economy, legislation, accounting rules and, most recently, government policy changes. This trend shows no signs of slowing down. The management of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes is being driven increasingly by the need to understand and manage the risks that running such schemes present, and the recent government announcements on annuity reform will change the landscape for pensions.

This sets a real challenge for all pensions professionals — how do we position ourselves to be ready for whatever change will throw at us? Consideration of this fundamental question for our industry led us to our theme for 2011, ‘Moving ahead of the curve’.

Our four plenaries look to the future of the global economy, UK pensions, risk management and professionalism. The undisputed highlight of our conference will be the opportunity to hear direct from Lord Hutton, the architect of UK public sector reform, shortly after the completion of stage 2 of his review of public service pensions.

We are delighted to have been able to secure a prominent economist and former Monetary Policy Committee member to give us his view of the economic future, in conjunction with the economics editor of the Sunday Times. With pensions risk management being uppermost in the minds of many sponsoring employers and trustee bodies, we will hear the views of two experts in the corporate and trustee spaces. The conference will then close with a debate on the future of the pensions professional, from the viewpoints of an experienced actuary, a pensions lawyer and a recently qualified actuary. This will be moderated by Jane Curtis, incoming president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

The workshop line-up for this year’s conference offers thought-provoking views from actuarial and non-actuarial speakers. A wide range of technical themes are covered from different angles, from the familiar topics of scheme funding and mortality, through the challenges posed by funded and unfunded public sector pensions, to covenant assessment, Europe, the international dimension, the 2011 tax changes and the latest developments in pensions risk management.

The programme also offers sessions on the latest thinking in DC scheme management, design and communication. The professionalism angle has not been neglected; in addition to our final plenary, there is a session on the new Board for Actuarial Standards’ new standards. The programme also offers five soft skills workshops, from theories that explain the way we live and work, to a view of what trustees want from their actuaries and that challenge for us all whatever our management experience — ‘Making difficult conversations do-able’.

The popular ‘hot topics slot’ features again this year, and will offer the opportunity to hear the latest developments in the issues of the day.

All through the conference you will be able to share your thoughts on issues in pensions via interactive media. And last, but not least, this year’s conference will offer numerous networking opportunities.

For more information, visit www.actuaries.org.uk/events/residential/pensions-conference-2011


Sessions at a glance
Plenary 1: Our economic future, what next?
Speakers: Dr Sushil Wadhwani, hedge fund proprietor and former MPC member and David Smith, economics editor of the Sunday Times. Chaired by Huw Evans.

>> Plenary 2: Our political future — the balancing act for UK pensions
Speakers: Lord Hutton of Furness and a senior spokesperson for the DWP. Chaired by Ronnie Bowie.

>> Plenary 3: Enterprise risk management in action
Speakers: Alan Smith, global head of Risk Strategy for HSBC and Catherine Redmond, director of Barclays’ UK Pension Executive Team. Chaired by Jim Boyle.

>> Plenary 4: Our professional future — different perspective
Speakers: Charles Cowling, managing director of Pension Capital Strategies, Clive Pugh, partner in Burgess Salmon and Edd Collins, consultant at Towers Watson. Chaired by Jane Curtis.