reflections - Richard Jenkins

Our viewpoint

My current career couldn’t have been much more different from my origins where I grew up on a working farm in rural Dorset. Since I joined LCP as a graduate in 2018, I have experienced even greater change as the Covid pandemic has led to two contrasting work environments. Working in the office and working from home both present different challenges to carrying out my role at LCP.

My three key lessons during my short time at LCP so far are to ask lots of questions, the power of clarity by keeping recommendations clear and simple and the value add of being proactive.

Ask questions

As consultants at LCP, we help you to find solutions for your Pension Scheme by answering your questions and meeting your needs. I recently watched a TED talk on why it is good to be the person in the room who asks the most questions, which in turn helps every participant in the room to understand what is being presented. The fundamentals of good consulting are the informal discussions and questions that form part of each client meeting or email. These allow us to really get to grips with what is needed and what we can provide for our clients’ needs. After all, it is very unlikely that the answer to each question is known by every participant in the room. So many times I have noticed how everyone in a room sits up and takes notice when a question is asked.

There was a meeting I was in recently where the slides we produced were in too much detail. This led to some crossed wires on the recommendations. However, what we did was to start by discussing the context as well as the purposes and aims of the paper to address the client’s queries.

This helped to get everyone on the same page and provide a good starting point for stepping through the advice and showing how it could provide the right solution for the Trustees. It is also important for us to ask the right questions to you, especially since we may not have seen some of you in person since early 2020! Understanding the needs and ever-changing requirements of our clients provides the insight for us to give the best solutions.

Power of clarity

A key skill of consulting is the clarity of our recommendations. You have likely all been in meetings in the past couple of months where half of the participants are attending in person and the rest have their faces broadcast on the big screen from their living rooms. This provides a new and real challenge for us to convey the right messages so that all can understand the recommendation regardless of their location.

It has been great to see trustees in person again as life briefly reverted back to some form of normality towards the end of this year. The opportunity to present virtually and in-person to trustees showcases the different skills needed to convey our advice simply. In some ways, as the world advances further into being completely online, the opportunity to present virtually now has set us up well for our future consulting experiences. Presenting virtually puts much more focus on you as the presenter and makes it much harder to judge the engagement of the audience. This requires more preparation from us as presenters to keep recommendations clear and concise and for us to check for thoughts from our audience regularly.

Be proactive

I view the real value add to our role as being proactive. Over the past couple of years, there have been some very trying circumstances for schemes as markets have been extremely volatile. Trustees that have taken their schemes on journey plans over many years and had reached low-risk strategies saw relatively little impact on their funding positions. Proactivity on this front has largely meant taking precautions and ensuring the schemes are well prepared for the future. However, there is also an opportunity for change.

With constant innovations in the markets, we are best placed to use our knowledge and to assist and recommend actions that can best meet the needs of our schemes. This can range from climate change and ESG considerations to finding new ways to invest in the old. I have been involved in a range of bespoke strategy solutions for clients ranging from equity protection strategies to niche illiquid opportunities such as distressed debt.

My key takeaway from this is that consulting is not just about having the right answers, it is about thinking carefully about how these answers are communicated and adapted for each situation and client. In a hybrid world, it is more important than ever to keep in touch with our clients’ needs.

More in the series:

Uncorrelated reflections - Laasya Shekaran