Pensions Administrator

The Job and What's Involved

Pensions administrators are responsible for the day-to-day administration of pension schemes and life insurance policies. They make sure that new and existing customers' policies are accurately maintained and serviced.

Their responsibilities can vary depending on the size and structure of their organisation. Most administrators have a customer services role, dealing with enquiries and carrying out the accompanying administration.

A pensions administrator's duties normally include:

  • Answering enquiries by telephone, post or email.
  • Using a computer system to look up information and update records.
  • Calculating pension forecasts and preparing statements.
  • Processing pension contributions.
  • Transferring benefits to another pension provider if a customer changes employer.
  • Arranging payment of pensions and lump sums.
  • Keeping accurate records.
  • Keeping up to date with pension and tax laws.

Pensions administrators are generally not allowed to give advice, but they do point clients to other sources of information. Most enquiries come from independent financial advisers (IFA's) or pension scheme members. Enquiries also come from trustees, employers and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Pensions administrators spend a lot of time using computers to give customers details of:

- Their policy in general
- The value of funds
- Their tax relief entitlement
- Probable cash sums on retirement
- What happens to their money if they leave the scheme
- Whether they can transfer their benefits

When money has to be paid out, for example after a death or when a scheme member is retiring from work, pensions administrators handle all the necessary paperwork and arrange for the pension or cash lump sum to be paid.

Administrators work in a team and report to a senior administrator or pensions manager. They are usually allocated specific clients or products to manage. Some administrators may handle customer complaints, although there is very little contact with clients in person.

Pensions administrators usually work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They may work overtime at evenings or weekends during busy periods. There are good opportunities for part-time work and job sharing. Flexible working is generally available.

Administrators usually work in an office, which is generally clean, well lit and air-conditioned. The office may be open plan. They spend a lot of time sitting at a desk working with computers and telephones.

Starting salaries may be around £12,000 to £19,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are opportunities for pensions administrators in most towns and cities throughout the UK. Employers include insurance and life assurance companies, and benefits consultancies that manage schemes for other organisations. As well as commercial companies, pensions administrators are also employed by local and national government and other public bodies to manage their own pension schemes.

There is currently a high demand for experienced administrators.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers and specialist publications such as Financial Adviser, Pensions Management and Pensions World. Vacancies can also be found on websites for specialist recruitment agencies, such as www.efinancialcareers.com.

Education and Training

Entry requirements vary widely. Many employers ask for at least four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) requires all pensions companies to assess staff carrying out certain kinds of work. As a result, pensions administrators may need to take a professional qualification, depending on their responsibilities. No specific qualifications are needed to register for the various professional exams.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

During their first year, pensions administrators usually gain experience in different departments. They work with senior administrators and learn about the organisation's products and services by a combination of on-the-job training and in-house training programmes.

Pensions administrators are encouraged to work towards professional qualifications. The Pensions Management Institute (PMI) offers three qualifications for administrators working on occupational pension schemes:

  • The Qualification in Public Sector Pensions Administration (QPSPA) - NVQ/SVQ Level 3.
  • The Diploma in Pensions Calculations (DPC) - a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ) at Level 4.
  • The Qualification in Pensions Administration (QPA) - an NVQ/SVQ at Level 4.

The Diploma enables you to keep your options open with a new choice of qualification.

The DPC and QPA are assessed in the workplace, through a combination of work-based evidence and case study examinations. Students complete these courses at their own pace.

The PMI also offers associateship examinations that cover every aspect of pension management and administration, together with other employee benefits issues, and communication and management.

There are also qualifications for administrators working on personal pension schemes, including the:

  • Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Certificate in Financial Administration.
  • CII Certificate in Financial Planning.
  • CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning.
  • Securities & Investment Institute (SII) Investment Administration Qualification (IAQ).
  • Institute of Financial Services (IFS) Certificate for Financial Advisers (CeFA).

The FSA requires individuals working on administrative of stakeholder pension schemes, or giving advice on pensions or pension transfers, to complete an appropriate examination. A full list can be found on the Financial Services Skills Council website, www.fssc.org.uk.

Many employers help their employees with the cost of examination fees and may give some study time. However, staff are also expected to study in their own time.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A pensions administrator should:

  • Be organised and efficient.
  • Have excellent record-keeping skills.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Be polite and friendly, with a sympathetic manner.
  • Be a good communicator in speech and writing.
  • Be able to explain complex information clearly and simply.
  • Have good numeracy and IT skills.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Be able to handle several jobs at the same time and prioritise work.
  • Understand the benefits system.
  • Be aware of changes in tax regulations.

Your Long Term Prospects

Pensions administrators may progress to become a team leader or manager. Larger organisations usually have a structured career path.

With further qualifications, pensions administrators can move into pensions advice. They can also diversify into other roles in the financial sector, including financial adviser or consultant, advising clients on all aspects of financial planning and employee benefits.

Get Further Information

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII),
20 Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HY
Tel: 020 7417 4415
Website: www.cii.co.uk

Financial Services Authority (FSA),
25 The North Colonnade,
Canary Wharf, London E14 5HS
Tel: 020 7066 1000
Website: www.fsa.gov.uk

Financial Services Skills Council,
51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Website: www.fssc.org.uk

Institute of Financial Services (IFS),
IFS House, 4-9 Burgate Lane,
Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 818609
Website: www.ifslearning.com

National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF),
NIOC House, 4 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0NX
Tel: 020 7808 1300
Website: www.napf.co.uk

The Pensions Management Institute (PMI),
PMI House, 4/10 Artillery Lane,
London E1 7LS
Tel: 020 7247 1452
Website: www.pensions-pmi.org.uk

Securities & Investment Institute (SII),
8 Eastcheap, London EC3M 1AE
Tel: 020 7645 0600
Website: www.sii.org

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