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Survey Report

Memories from Lockdown 1.0

Chapter three of the 2021 de-risking report

Pensions Corporate Consulting|Pensions Risk Solutions|Pension Board and Trustee Consulting|Pensions Technology
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January 19, 2021

On 23 March 2020, the UK announced it was going into lockdown, thrusting us into a new way of working overnight. As a team and as an industry we had to adapt to a virtual working environment and some new challenges this introduced. Below, we feature some of our team members’ memories from this period, including a few of the funny moments!

Ian Aley

Ian Aley

“The move to video conferencing post lockdown has brought a new dimension to negotiation strategies. On my first all-party contract negotiation video call post lockdown, our side all turned up with our cameras on to try to recreate the experience of the negotiations taking place around a table, whereas the “opposition” deliberately had their cameras off… an interesting tactic!”


Gemma Millington

Gemma Millington

“The biggest challenge for me was juggling work with caring for my son. During April/May/June, I attended several internal calls and a few insurer calls whilst out walking and pushing/carrying my son. This was one way of keeping on top of work commitments when the nurseries were shut!”


Will Griffiths

Will Griffiths

“Electronic signing was being used to sign the contract on one of my buy-in transactions. When the time came, we had a worrying ten minutes when we thought the electronic signing wasn’t working. The insurer was left a little red-faced when it turned out they’d simply forgotten to check the document in!

Separately, I feel like there was definitely a reduction in the number of men attempting to grow beards once Teams got rolled out…. (myself included!).”


Tom Ashworth

Tom Ashworth

“I recall running my first virtual insurer selection day one week into lockdown. Despite several dry runs with each insurer in advance (to help navigate any technical teething issues), we still had one insurer’s connection intermittently cutting out during their actual presentation. In the end, we had to make the call to defer their presentation to the following week. Fortunately, video conferencing capabilities have come on a long way since then!”


Louise Lane

Louise Lane

“As a team we kept in touch and demonstrated our competitive streak with virtual scavenger hunts, escape rooms and quizzes, sometimes gate-crashed by the ‘next generation’ eager to join in!”


Suzanne Vaughan

Suzanne Vaughan

“Project Gemini was a £40m full-scheme buy-in signed on 7 April. This was a deal that had been temporarily put on ice, but due to the amazing pricing we saw coming through at the start of the first lockdown we were able to work with the insurer and scheme to reduce the premium substantially, reducing the cash contribution required by the Company by nearly £10m. During those terrible times, it was great to feel I was doing something useful by helping this scheme take positive steps to increase security for the members.”


Shelly Beard

Shelly Beard

“A lasting memory for me is some of the examples of camaraderie that kept us all going during such a challenging time. On one project, a lawyer jokingly reminded the client to keep the signing page safe and not use it as toilet roll (this was during the toilet roll shortage)! On another project, the lawyer, pensions manager and I exchanged photos of us toasting the deal after signing in our own mini celebration.”


Lucy Wilson

Lucy Wilson

“I will not forget the Reckitt Benckiser transaction, a £415m buy-in, and the first for the scheme which signed on the second day of lockdown. The extreme volatility in the markets at the time meant we were monitoring pricing on a daily basis, sometimes many times a day. There were hurdles to overcome, often technology related, with intermittent wi-fi and temperamental home scanners, but we kept calm (on the surface at least!) and with great collaboration from all parties, everyone stayed focused until we’d achieved a really good outcome for the Trustees.”


Danielle Feingold

Danielle Feingold

“On Project Zeta, two buy-ins covering £350m of liabilities that signed in May, we had an interesting signing experience! Electronic signatures couldn’t be used on this deal, and late in the day it came to light that one of the trustees didn’t have access to a printer. The group brainstormed possible solutions – with ideas including investing in a moped, a meeting in a car park, or Willis Towers Watson ordering a printer to be sent to the trustee’s house. In the end the trustee found access to a printer and everything was signed in wet ink and scanned back. However, I very much enjoyed the creative solutions we came up with!”


Next chapter - Integrating management of longevity risk within the investment strategy

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