Rosemary Mounce, group pensions manager at Arup Group, is a keen yachtswoman who has steered pensionchanges and developments through a number of organisations
A pensions expert with a passion for sailing, Rosemary Mounce, group pensions manager at Arup Group, has been navigating the winds of change in the industry for nearly 40 years.
An avid sailor for almost as long as she has been in pensions, Mounce has had a yacht for 30 years. “We don’t go terribly deep-sea, mostly to Holland and to France, but we hope to take it a bit further, perhaps to the Caribbean,” she says.
Mounce got into pensions a decade before sailing, after studying maths at university. One of four sisters who also studied maths, she wanted to follow a profession other than teaching or accountancy. “When I explored a bit further, I had a choice of going into the insurance sector or a consultancy, and consulting seemed like more fun,” she says.
After two consultancy roles, at Duncan C Fraser (now Mercer) and Clay and Partners (now Aon Hewitt), Mounce moved into working on pensions in-house at firms such as British Leyland, Bechtel and GEC. She then returned to consultancy, working on change management with firms including Royal and Sun Alliance and BAE Systems.
Mounce moved to the Arup Group in 2008. “I went to look for a middle-sized scheme where I could make changes and really have an impact,” she says.
And she has had an impact. Arup had a defined benefit (DB) pension scheme, but it was not well understood by the firm’s 3,500 staff, with only 63% taking it up. Mounce says: “It was unsustainable and it was not achieving what the organisation wanted it to achieve, which was a better cover for membership.”
In 2010, the DB scheme was closed to both new entrants and to future accrual and Arup brought in a group personal pension (GPP) provided by BlackRock. Mounce undertook a nine-month programme of education and presentations to ensure staff really understood the changes. The GPP now has a 93% take-up, and 83% of staff are contributing at the top level of 6% to receive matched employer contributions of 12%.
As if closing a DB scheme and opening a DC plan was not challenging enough, Mounce also took the opportunity to make changes to the scheme’s investment choices. Working with Towers Watson and Arup’s pensions governance committee, she introduced new default arrangements, a lifestyle matrix and investment profiling.
“Most employees have not opted into the default fund,” says Mounce. “They have made choices on investments and feel part of the process, which is something we will continue to develop.”
Arup is now looking towards auto-enrolment, but Mounce thinks the pension reforms will be plain sailing, particularly as the firm has already achieved such high take-up. “It is not a huge issue, but it still means a tremendous amount of effort on administration,” she says.
In the meantime, Mounce will continue to educate staff about pensions and investments. “The big thing is keeping people focused on the fact that they have to save, even though times are tough,” she says. “There will be a lot more choices and a lot more ways to deal with it, which I think will be lot more attractive to people.”
How would you describe yourself?
Persistent. I have done a lot of coming in and making changes in various organisations. I am not particularly interested in making things polished, but I am always interested in carrying out the improvements and the developments.
What is your favourite benefit?
The pension scheme is good. I think working in an employee trust is a very different style. It makes the decision-making process different because there are no shareholders, there is a trustee body, and this has a wider view of what the members’ best interests are.
What are your hobbies?
My husband and I have had a yacht for about 30 years. A few years ago we had a design yacht built for us and we are starting to enjoy more time on that. I have a 29-year-old daughter who works in the Foreign Office and a 25-year-old son who is finishing his PhD.
2008-present group pensions manager, Arup Group
2003-2007 pensions consultant, Royal and Sun Alliance, McAlpine, BAE Systems
2001-2003 chief pensions officer, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)
1997-2001 pensions manager, GEC (now Marconi)
1993-1997 pensions manager, Geest
1987-1993 chief pensions officer and European actuary, Alcan Group
1984-1987 pensions manager, Bechtel
1981-1984 pensions co-ordinator, British Leyland
1977-1981 actuarial trainee, Clay and Partners (now Aon Hewitt)
1974-1977 actuarial trainee, Duncan C Fraser (now Mercer)
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