adding value, setting standards


By Nigel Keogh, CIPFA Pensions Technical Manager

CIPFA experts specialise in supporting the public sector and the on-going work conducted by CIPFA’s Pension Panel is a good example of how our unique knowledge and expert guidance can help public sector organisations prepare, understand and respond to legislative change.

Public sector pensions are a complex and ever-evolving area of public sector finances. As soon as the dust had settled on the last round of changes in 2008, the coalition government instigated a further review of public service pension arrangements under the auspices of Lord Hutton’s Public Service Pensions Commission.

Now, as we approach 2014, the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 has laid the framework for the biggest shake-up of public sector pensions in a generation.

In this atmosphere of constant change, the CIPFA Pensions Panel works to support practitioners, regulators and industry professionals in delivering world-class public financial management in public sector pensions.

Therefore, through its extensive catalogue of guidance and place-shaping thought pieces, CIPFA’s panel publications cover every aspect of public sector pension’s finance and governance. Ranging from detailed guidance on UK-leading best practice on pension fund accounting, through to the most comprehensive statement on public sector pensions finance, knowledge and skills ever produced for the sector.

Comprised of senior figures from across UK public sector pensions, the panel brings together pensions leaders, accountants, actuaries, auditors and regulators to direct and provide oversight to CIPFA’s pensions publications. Its workload is shaped in various ways, for example:

  • working through its companion Pensions Network to assess where practitioner demand for support lies and responding accordingly   
  • horizon-scanning for new issues and developments to which it can add value through guidance and training.

An example of the panel's addition of value through guidance and training, includes the Pensions Finance Knowledge and Skills Framework - Technical Guidance for Pensions Practitioners in the Public Sector and its companion publication, Pensions Finance Knowledge and Skills Framework - Technical Guidance for Elected Representatives and Non-executives in the Public Sector, which the panel began compiling in 2009.

Recognising the wide-ranging skill set necessary to be an effective financial manager in public sector pensions, the panel established a working party of industry representatives and practitioners to identify the key areas of knowledge and skills required. From a base of six core threads (pensions legislative and governance context; pensions accounting and auditing standards; financial services procurement and relationship management; investment performance and risk management; financial markets and product knowledge; actuarial methods, standards and practices), the working party built up a picture of the different levels of knowledge required through the financial management function, from junior accountant through to the chief finance officer/Section 151 role. These same principles were then applied to elected member and non-executive roles, thus expanding coverage to all those involved in public sector pensions financial decision-making.

Introduced as a guide to assist practitioners in preparing role profiles, assessing staff knowledge and skills, and identifying training needs, these frameworks have been widely adopted across the sector. And now they form the basis of a code of practice which establishes the requirement of appropriate knowledge and skills in public sector pensions.

As an organisation at the heart of local government, CIPFA understands the value of public sector pensions, as well as the challenges it can present to local authorities.

Our comprehensive expertise in, and understanding of, public sector pensions is demonstrated in our new products, available for public sector professionals, providing specific guidance on pensions for local authorities: