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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Book review: Good Governance for Pension Schemes

Peter Tompkins, chairman of The Actuary’s editorial advisory panel reviews a book by Paul Thornton and Donal Flemming, followed by some words from the authors


Good Governance for Pension Schemes
Cambridge University Press
978 0 521 76161 1

Good Governance for Pension Schemes is a book of essays ‘curated’ by Paul Thornton and Donald Fleming. Various specialists on aspects of pensions from funding to investment to demography have been drawn together to give their thoughts on good governance.

It would be heavy-going for a new lay trustee, though individual chapters may be useful for exploring one part of the subject. It seems to cover the issues fairly comprehensively, but feels rather ‘zipped together’. An opening essay by the compilers is a good scene-setter, but the essays as a whole seem to try to cover too much ground.

It probably earns itself a place on most consultants’ shelves. Future editions might benefit from harmonisation of the style, and of the very full content. Greater emphasis on the non-trustee governance of a defined-contribution pensions world would be worthwhile.

Peter Tompkins is chairman of The Actuary’s editorial advisory panel

From the authors:

“This book ranges across regulation, capital markets, relevant law, actuarial investigation, sponsor covenant, investment governance, risk management and the corporate perspective. I make no apology for choosing this collection of summaries of current best practice, as each chapter is by a leading expert in their field. Actuaries must appreciate the context in which their advice is given, and that is what this book provides.”

l Paul Thornton is responsible for the pensions advisory team at Gazelle Corporate Finance. In 2007, he led an independent Review of Pensions Institutions for the Department for Work and Pensions. He is a past president of the Institute of Actuaries (2000-02).

l Donald Fleming joined Gazelle Corporate Finance in 2005 to launch its pensions advisory business. He has also worked as a corporate financier at Cazenove & Co (latterly JPMorgan Cazenove) and practised as a banking lawyer with Clifford Chance, specialising in securitisation.

Paul Thornton’s Book Corner

What every actuary should read: “I have chosen two enjoyable and illuminating books, not for their technical or actuarial content but for the way they put actuarial endeavours in context. In this sense, the insights are indispensable.”

Who’s Afraid of Schrödinger’s Cat? by Ian Marshall and Danah Zohar

While the book is a 1997 guide to ‘new science’, the introduction and overview show that scientific theories that appear to explain everything at the time are invariably found later to be incomplete. This is equally true of actuarial science.

The Greed Merchants
by Philip Augur

Written in 2004, before the recent global financial crisis, this book is subtitled ‘How the investment banks played the free market game’. Understanding how moneymaking drives the managers and owners of investment banks is important to the financial institutions that rely on their services and to the actuaries that advise them, and this book should induce reflections on risk management and ethics.