Pensions is our business: we have been advising on pensions for over 25 years and act for more than 500 funds with a total value of over £300 billion. Whether you are a trustee, sponsoring employer or a provider of services to pension funds, our multi-award winning 50 strong pensions team has the capacity and experience to meet all your legal needs. We are supported by experts across the firm (domestically and internationally) in financial services, tax, labour and employment, disputes and commercial law.
Staying Ahead of the Game
Our pensions specialists are located in each of our four UK offices (London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester) and supported by pensions and benefits experts across 23 of our overseas offices.
We have won 15 national UK pensions industry awards in the last 15 years, demonstrating the quality of our practice and our external recognition.
Our clients include trustees and corporate sponsors of over 500 private sector plans (defined benefit and defined contribution) of all sizes. We are recognised leaders in the Local Government Pension Scheme, where we have acted for almost a half of the funds in England and Wales. In addition, we have provided advice to UK government bodies giving us a unique insight into the pensions sector. We have also advised non-departmental public bodies, investment managers, insurers and pension intermediaries and, with our Institutional Investors Group colleagues, Sovereign Wealth Funds.
We are particularly well known across a range of sectors, including utilities, manufacturing, chemical, engineering, automotive, healthcare, financial services, infrastructure, education, local government and charity/not for profit. Such a diverse client base means that we see pensions from all angles and bring that fully rounded experience to all our client activity.
Leading Not Following
We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of pensions developments and actively seek to influence UK government policy. Going the extra mile for our clients takes many forms: actively contributing to all the major UK pensions professional bodies, providing secondments to some of our major clients’ in-house pension departments, as well as to the Pensions Regulator and the Pensions Protection Fund, and constructively responding to government consultations on proposed policy changes.
Over recent years, we have been at the vanguard of pensions innovation, being involved with a range of industry firsts, including advising on:
- The first public sector pension plan to finalise a bulk annuity purchase
- The first longevity swap
- The first financial support direction
- The first large pension plan to enter the PPF assessment period
- The first use of the Pensions Regulator’s material detriment test outside of the EU/North America
We are members of and key contributors to Confederation of British Industry, CIPFA, ILAG, IPEBLA, APL, PLSA, PMI and Society of Pension Professionals.
Data Protection and Security
Pension plans hold large amounts of member data, much of which is sensitive or financial. As the legal obligations in respect of data protection ramp up and the threat of cyber-attack increases, we help clients navigate the legal and practical minefield. Working closely with our data protection specialists, we are helping clients ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, guard against data losses and react appropriately to any data breaches.
Investment decisions are a fundamental part of the pension trustee role. Corporate sponsors also have an interest in managing investment risk as they bear the ultimate cost of poor supervision, low returns and unexpected liabilities. One of the key ways in which trustees can minimise risk is to ensure that expert legal advice is taken before entering into any investment agreements — this is not only to negotiate better terms and demonstrate the proper discharge of trustees' fiduciary responsibilities, but also to offer protection if things go wrong. The courts have repeatedly shown little sympathy for institutional investors who do not understand their obligations because they have failed to take advice on investment documentation.
Within our market-leading pension plan investment practice, we advise on all asset classes and strategies, handle buy-in/buy-out and other derisking work, and help to secure member benefits, whether for ongoing pension plans or those in the process of winding up.
Apart from day to day pensions work for local authorities and employers, we advised the UK government on the reform of LGPS investment regulation and on options for achieving cost savings through collective investment vehicles. This advice culminated with a new prudential regulatory framework in 2016, which removed artificial constraints on asset allocation. We have provided advice to almost half of the 89 LGPS funds in England and Wales before and during their structuring of new pooled investment solutions, working with colleagues in financial services, procurement and tax.
We start from the premise that prevention is better than cure. Therefore, we regularly advise on risk management strategies, including the design of internal control procedures, conflict of interest issues and on protections available to trustees and corporate sponsors should things go wrong.
If they do, our pensions disputes team — made up of contentious and non-contentious lawyers — is on hand to assist. Disputes are by their nature fact specific so require bespoke solutions, taking into account commercial and financial constraints and the possibility of reputational damage to a business, a pension plan or an adviser. We work with clients to handle complaints and guide them through mediation, litigation or regulatory processes if this becomes necessary.
We have specialist expertise dealing with member complaints, documentation mistakes/ambiguities, trustee liabilities, professional negligence claims, investment claims and Pensions Regulator interventions.
Risk and Journey Planning
Sponsors of defined benefit pension plans continue to grapple with the cost and risks associated with these arrangements. Meanwhile, trustees are expected to adopt an integrated risk management approach. We help clients implement risk management strategies and find efficiencies within their pension arrangements. Whether as part of a long term journey plan or an isolated project, our experts bring a wealth of experience including funding and security arrangements, enhanced transfer and commutation exercises, pension increases exchanges, plan restructurings, and investment solutions via Liability Driven Investment programmes, longevity swaps and buy-ins/buy-outs.
We provide assistance for multinational employers on all aspects of pensions and related benefits for individuals and corporates. We advise on all aspects of international benefits, whether relating to plan structures, risk, governance, corporate activity or investment issues.
Taxation and Benefits
Working closely with our Tax Strategy & Benefits and Labour & Employment teams, we offer expertise in helping trustee boards, corporate sponsors and public service bodies manage pension plan change. We are experienced in developing and advising on the implementation of alternative, tax-efficient compensation structures and guiding employers through automatic enrolment duties.
We regularly advise clients on interactions with the UK Pensions Regulator. This includes where a sponsoring employer is undertaking corporate activity, where a pension plan valuation is under discussion or in the unfortunate event of a breach of the law. Equally, we have expertise in advising on financial services authorisation and perimeter issues for trustees and local authorities.
We have provided an independent trustee service through The Trustee Corporation Limited for more than 30 years; some of these plans have been at the forefront of innovative practices.
Our Finger Is on the Pulse
We support our clients with the strategically important hot topics that they face, as and when they happen. Currently clients are looking for support on areas such as Brexit, de-risking exercises, data protection compliance, cyber security and contracts with third parties.
Recent industry awards won:
- Winner of the 2018 Legal 500 award for Human Resources (specialist) firm of the year.
- Pensions Law Firm of the Year 2016, at the Pension and Investment Provider Awards, organised by Pensions Expert, the Financial Times Group.
- Pensions Firm of the Year 2015, at the Finance Monthly Global Awards.
Also shortlisted for:
- Pensions Law Firm of the Year 2017, 2016 and 2015 at the Pensions Age Awards.
- European Pensions Law Firm of the Year 2017, 2016 and 2015 at the European Pensions Awards.
- Pensions Lawyers of the Year 2017 and 2016 at the UK Pensions Awards organized by Professional Pensions.
- Pensions Law Firm of the Year 2015 at the Pension and Investment Provider Awards, organised by Pensions Expert, the Financial Times Group.
“I have worked with the Pensions team at [Squire Patton Boggs] and its former incarnations for over 10 years. This has been primarily in the area of trustee education, where I have found all those that I have met to be engaging, professional and personable individuals. They are all good communicators and present well in formal and informal situations. They understand the needs of their clients and their audience and deliver complex messages in easily understood and unambiguous language. My clients who have had exposure to [Squire Patton Boggs’] partners and employees always speak very highly of them." Nick Hodges, Former Head of Index Funds Distribution, UK Institutional Business at Legal & General Investment Management.
“Squire Patton Boggs as a firm are both a pleasure to work with and a breath of fresh air as they are not afflicted with the sense of “self-importance” that emanates from some other firms. I find their fees represent excellent value for money, not least because they actively apply a sense test to all their billing.” Duncan Brown, Director of Group Pensions, IMI plc.
“I have found the whole team at Squire Patton Boggs to be very customer focused, give good advice and provide an excellent service for us”. Graham Squires, Pensions Manager and Secretary to the Trustee, Jaguar Land Rover Pension Trustees Limited.
“The partners and staff of Squire Patton Boggs have always provided a client focussed, diligent and cost effective service. On day to day matters, the advice is comprehensive but pragmatic. On complex issues the firm’s technical resource has been unchallenged, invoking specialist experience from within the firm as necessary. The support provided to the fund by Squire Patton Boggs has been faultless and is greatly valued.” David Welch, Chairman, Trustee Directors, Tennants Consolidated Limited Pension Fund.