Guest Comment: The downsides to having a professional trustee on every board

TPR speaks ardently about trustees at certain schemes not fulfilling their duties and being unwilling to engage. So, I understand why TPR might suggests a professional trustee (PT) on every board. I enjoy working with PTs. but I'm still not sure about this approach.

An obvious concern is cost. A recent Winmark survey revealed an average PT trustee chair cost £65,500 per annum. Thousands of new PTs, even at a lower cost, will add hundreds of £ms to scheme costs. A large scheme may find it adds value. But if PTs are pushed onto smaller schemes it gets increasingly difficult to turn that cost into value, unless a "PT Light" option exists, which risks defeating the purpose.

Capacity is another concern. If the idea is rolled out too quickly, we will end up with either good PTs spread too thinly, or bad PTs emerging to take on the roles. Neither is helpful for schemes or for PTs.

However, this isn't really about PTs, it’s about governance. The threat of having a PT imposed is just another nudge towards consolidation. Improve your scheme governance or give it to someone else. There's also something unsettling about the implication that having a PT must always be better than not.

There are many excellent boards without a PT, and I question how adding a PT will improve them. Those schemes could be faced with the ultimatum of a PT as a by-product of TPR trying to improve the worst schemes. To me, that feels like the wrong outcome.

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