Few UK Pension Trustees Understand Manager Fees

Following the FCA’s call for greater transparency, UK pension trustees confirm a lack of clarity on costs incurred by asset managers.


Nearly nine out of ten UK pension trustees consider fees first and foremost when choosing asset managers — but almost as many lack understanding on the costs charged by managers.

This is according to new research from the Asset Management Exchange (AMX), Willis Towers Watson’s institutional asset management marketplace, which polled trustees from 39 pension funds representing more than £115 billion ($187 billion).

The report comes after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s market regulator, proposed “increased transparency and standardization of costs and charges information for institutional investors” as part of its ongoing asset management market study in November.

Citing difficulties faced by pension trustees in clarifying the fees charged by managers, the report stated that “these issues are likely to contribute to asset managers being less effective at controlling complex costs, as well as limiting institutional investors’ ability to drive competition and get value for money.”

In line with the FCA’s findings, 80 percent of trustees surveyed by AMX said they had low confidence in the clarity of costs relating to investment, trading, and operations. For operational and trading costs specifically, 86 percent had little or no confidence.

Two-thirds said they were worried about spending money on “unnecessary” fees, and 43 percent said they had to spend more time monitoring their managers than they did previously despite technological advancements. Just under half believed their asset managers delivered value for the money paid in administrative costs.

“Our survey confirms that trustees feel their role has become more complex and difficult,” said Oliver Jaegemann, global head of AMX, in a statement. “The current institutional asset management model is inefficient and trustees are recognizing this... Greater transparency is undoubtedly needed.”

Risk and governance concerns are also high among pension trustees, Jaegemann added. The survey found that only one in five trustees believe having multiple asset managers with their own governance functions is a safe model for the pension industry.

Standardizing fee information, as the FCA proposed, could offer a solution, Jaegemann said in the statement, by “enabling a more confident monitoring and ensuring the value leakage is minimized.”

The FCA is expected to publish a final report on the UK asset management industry later this year.