Welcome to the:
2021 Virtual Pension Conference

The Aon 2021 Virtual Pension Conference has been designed for trustees of pension schemes and pensions, HR and finance professionals who make decisions about their company’s pension scheme. Pensions schemes and trustees have adapted over time with changes to the pensions landscape and the needs of members. This conference will help you reflect on your own pension scheme strategy and will include lots of real-life examples.

Undoubtedly, this conference series will look and feel different for many of you who are used to attending our in-person conferences but we have been working very hard to design this 2021 virtual conference so that you have the same experience. The conference will give you access to interesting and topical content and thought provoking insights from Aon specialists, and you will have a chance to network and discuss the content with other delegates in breakout rooms and in our virtual networking rooms.

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Attendance will offer delegates the opportunity to hear experts’ views and ideas on how to manage defined benefit and defined contribution pension schemes and provides a platform to learn from and network with peers.

Delegates can expect to leave with fresh actions for their pension scheme and will receive CPD points for session attendance.

We will be running our virtual conference over the course of a week, starting from Monday 22 March 2021. Each day of that week, we will run sessions in the morning with the last session of the day concluding by lunchtime. You can see the full list of sessions below.



Day 1

Monday | 22 March

Responding to 2020



09:30 - 09:50

Welcome & Key note address Charles Counsell, Chief Executive

The Pensions Regulator (TPR)

Speakers: Chairs

09:50 - 10:20

Investing in the new normal

Speakers: Koray Yesildag

As the immediate impacts of the pandemic fade and lockdowns come to an end, we are emerging into a world where so much of life has seemingly changed. What will the New Normal mean for asset allocation? This interactive session will highlight some of the most important issues that need to be addressed for the Medium-Term and our recommendations for navigating through this highly uncertain time.

10:30 - 10:50

Strengthening scheme resilience

Speakers: Rachel Croft, Professional Trustee at ITS; Sarah Horan, Professional Trustee at ITS; Susan Austen; Vanessa-Jane Jaeger;

2020 turned the dial on pension scheme governance, moving meetings and decision making online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet cyber threats continued to increase and have a real impact on pension schemes.

What legacy has 2020 left for pension schemes, and how does pension scheme governance deal with preparing for the next big threat as well as capitalising on opportunities?

This session is aimed at trustees and sponsors of both DB and DC pension schemes and will include case studies, surveys to identify what schemes are currently doing to improve their resilience, as well as some suggestions for next steps.

11:00 - 11:20

How will the pensions landscape reflect and readjust?

Speaker: Emma Moore

2020 is not a year we will forget in a hurry! This session takes us back 12 months as we look at how COVID-19 has impacted DB and DC schemes over 2020, before looking forward to consider how the pensions landscape is likely to change in the future as a result.  How will the regulatory environment adapt?  Which pensions risks have grown in priority?  How are members’ needs likely to change?  We will reach for our crystal ball as we attempt to provide possible answers to these questions

11:30 - 12:05

Practical diversity & inclusion for pension schemes

Speaker: Susan Hoare

World events have increased the focus on diversity & inclusion (D&I). Many corporates have well developed D&I activity. We will help you understand what benefits you can get from considering it for your pension scheme. This session will help you in your role as a trustee, pension manager or corporate sponsor discuss some of the practical areas for addressing D&I issues for your pension scheme. You will also hear from Simone Macmillan-Binns, Senior Pensions Manager UK&I at General Electric on her experience of starting an active D&I journey.

12:05 - 12:35

Virtual networking



Day 2

Tuesday | 23 March

Reviewing DB destinations



09:30 - 09:40


Speakers: Chair

09:40 - 10:20

Helping you decide which risk settlement option to choose

Speakers: Karen Gainsford; Michael Walker

Guest Speaker: Jo Myerson - Ross Trustees; Gavin Smith - Legal & General

The risk settlement options available to schemes are expanding year by year. 2020 saw the starting gun fired for commercial consolidators, and the market for longevity swaps is more active than ever before. With more solutions available, how do you decide which options are right for your scheme?

In this session we will:

  • summarise the key risk settlement options available in the current market
  • summarise the decision-making framework that has been used successfully by Aon clients to assess the options
  • share real life examples to bring the framework to life; and
  • suggest next steps, to help you develop a framework for your scheme.

10:30 - 11:00

Endgame: Winning investment strategies

Speakers: Colin Cartwright, Ben Steen

Consolidators, capital-backed investment solutions and insurance – trustees and sponsors now have a range of options to get to their endgame more quickly, more cheaply and with less risk. Drawing on client case studies, this session will explore the practical steps trustees and sponsors can take at each stage of their endgame journey.

11:10 - 11:25

A contrarian view: why you might not buyout even if you can afford to

Speaker: Paul Heaney

As DB schemes mature, building up to full buyout has long been the primary endgame in town. Why wouldn’t a corporate take the opportunity to extinguish all liability when feasible, and a Trustee not take the additional benefit security of a large insurance company? This session offers a contrarian view, to explore the benefits of intentionally delaying buyout, to:

  • Target future surplus extraction for the corporate as the scheme naturally matures
  • Potentially improve member benefits with discretionary increases
  • Allow members to continue enjoying options/benefits an insurance company would not provide
  • Provide equivalent levels of security/risk over a finite period
  • Consider what we can learn from approaches used by commercial consolidators

This contrarian view may be more suitable for consideration by medium or larger schemes. The aim of this session is to outline the key considerations in order to make an informed decision on the future endgame of your scheme, with all options considered.

11:25 - 11:55

Virtual networking



Day 3

Wednesday | 24 March

Better scheme journeys



09:30 - 09:40


Speakers: Chair

09:40 - 10:25

Creating and documenting your journey plan

Speakers: David Lindsay; Paul McGlone

The new DB funding code will expect trustees and sponsors to agree on a long term funding and investment strategy, with a documented journey plan for ensuring that scheme benefits can be provided in the long term. Trustees are also expected to prepare a statement each year explaining the strategy, including the risks to that strategy and contingency plans to cope with major risks.

In this session we will go through the practical steps of how schemes can create and document a robust journey plan, including how that journey plan may differ depending on the circumstances of your scheme. We will cover funding, investment and covenant considerations, and delegates will have ample opportunity to discuss their own circumstances with both Aon hosts and other schemes.

10:45 - 11:05

The Diversification Paradox

Speakers: Andy Peach; Jo Sharples

After a decade of incredibly well behaved markets, investors could be forgiven for wondering “does diversification matter?” If nothing else, the rough ride in March 2020 served as a timely reminder that, yes, it does. But just when it was needed, not all diversification worked, so it’s important that care is taken when constructing portfolios. Our investment specialists will outline what this means for the DB and DC investor along with a guide to implementation.

11:15 - 11:40

The power behind your capital: investing for a better future

Speakers: Katherine Patel; Richard Hyman

The market value of pension funds reached £2.2 trillion at the end of 2019 – but do you know what kind of practices this money is supporting? Discover the power wielded by your assets and how your managers are using it. Learn about the tools you have to take back control, the steps Aon are taking to make an impact and the latest regulation surrounding responsible investment.

11:40 - 12:10

Virtual networking



Day 4

Thursday | 25 March

Future of DC and savings



09:30 - 09:40


Chair: Lynda Whitney

09:40 - 10:00

Key note address Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP

Speaker: Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP

10:10 - 10:40

Collective DC: the dawn of a new (pensions) era

Speaker: Chintan Gandhi

CDC delivers an income for life from DC savings, which is what the majority of employees want from their DC savings. The advent of the Pensions Schemes Bill Act provides the primary legislation required to make CDC schemes a reality in the UK.

This session will explore the rationale for CDC from both the employer's and the members' perspectives, how CDC schemes will operate in practice and what the future might hold for CDC schemes. There will be plenty of opportunity for audience interaction to ask questions and give their views.

10:50 - 11:10

Financial Wellbeing: all product, no personal connection

Speakers: Oliver Walker; James Collier

In this interactive session, we are going to test the hypothesis that companies provide lots of financial products but few provide a personalised framework to connect financial tools with employees in need. We will talk about why this is important, live test the hypothesis and discuss practical steps you can take to direct employees to the financial products appropriate to their lifestyle.

11:20 - 12:00

Is DC consolidation the answer to better value for members? A panel discussion

Speakers: Tony Pugh; Maddie Cain - Aon; Kim Nash, Director, PTL

Is bigger always better when it comes to DC pension arrangements? Join a panel comprising of a pension manager, a professional trustee, a master trust provider and a DC consultant as they seek to answer some of the difficult questions thrown up by the govt. consultation on DC consolidation.

  • How value for money is driving DC market consolidation
  • What are the barriers preventing those who currently want to consolidate and how can these be overcome?
  • What is the Trustee perspective on DC consolidation ?
  • What is the experience of those that have moved to mastertrust – a client perspective.

You will have the opportunity to submit your own questions either at the time of registration or live during the session to hear the different perspectives of our panel members.

12:00 - 12:30

Virtual networking



Day 5

Friday | 26 March

Supporting members & meeting milestones



09:30 - 09:40


Chair: Lynda Whitney

09:40 - 10:15

Optimising member retirements

Speakers: Steven Leigh; Sophie Moore

How should pension schemes support their members to help them make the right decisions at retirement? This session explores how schemes and sponsors can ensure members get the best retirement outcomes from their accrued pension funds.

Our experts will compare the pros and cons of more traditional services and solutions such as financial advisers and in-scheme pensions with emerging models including robo-advice and post-retirement drawdown options.

We will help you to consider what would be right for your scheme, making sure your members don't lose out from one misstep at the point of accessing their pension fund.

10:25 - 10:40

How data could save you millions!

Speaker: David Pharo

90% of schemes have a long-term target but too many risk their success by undervaluing the impact data will have. The journey to most schemes’ target will take in numerous projects which will be enabled or derailed by their data. Whether it’s GMP=, member options exercises, Dashboard readiness or bulk annuity transactions, data will be key.

For many it’s been a question of tackling your data ‘just in time’ on a project-by-project basis or a rather daunting ‘big bang’ of cleaning all data for all members. In this session we’ll examine if these two options are trustees’ only choices or if there is a better way; we believe there is.

We’ll discuss the role of data readiness as an enabler to your success, prioritising this accordingly and strategy acting on this

10:50 - 11:15

GMP equalisation: lessons from first movers

Speakers: Tom Yorath; Jason Eshelby

Over two years after the initial judgment, the path to equalising GMPs has become increasingly well-trodden. In this session you'll hear from the expert witnesses to the court case on how they've helped many first movers get equalisation done and their top tips for success. Whether you are expecting to use dual records or conversion Aon’s experts will share their huge experience of how decisions have been made, why that route has been chosen and the practicalities of implementation. This session will be appropriate for Trustees, sponsors and pensions managers responsible for decisions regarding GMP Equalisation.

11:25 - 12:10

Member options – don’t forget your pensioners!

Speakers: Kelly Hurren; Andy Fryer

Since the introduction of 'Freedom and Choice' we've heard lots about supporting members as they approach retirement, but what about pensioner members who, more and more, represent the biggest part of maturing DB schemes? What options do they have to change their benefits in a way which can positively impact their retirement?

This session will re-focus on pensioner populations. We'll hear from pensioner members who have received re-shaping options and the impact these have had on their lives, and we'll see how technology can be used to communicate options in simple ways.

Looking to the future, combining re-shaping options with GMP conversion exercises is set to become popular, but how will members understand all the complexity? In this session we'll also hear from a leading firm of financial advisors who will talk about the member experience, the financial advice process and how they support pensioner members in making the best choices for their personal circumstances.

12:10 - 12:15

Closing remarks

Speaker: Chair

Our speakers