Pinsent Masons LLP's strength in the pensions arena is reflected in an extensive client roster including trustees, employers and funds. With particular focus on the first-mentioned client segment, which also constitutes Ruth Tobias' key area of expertise, trustees of various defined benefit schemes frequently retain the team to advise on buy-ins and buy-outs, scheme administration and governance issues, which have recently included an increasing number of ESG matters. Private and public sector funds receive investment support. Clients requiring transactional assistance also benefit from the team's strong cooperation with the firm's corporate practice. Team head Ian Gordon provides full-service advice and acts as an independent trustee of a number of pension schemes. He is regularly supported by senior associate Cameron McCulloch, who is noted for his experience in advising trustees and corporates on buy-in and buy-out insurance transactions.
Pensions in Scotland
Pinsent Masons LLP
Other key lawyers:
Ruth Tobias; Cameron McCulloch
‘A rare combination of broad and deep pension competence, a very deep understanding of their client, strong willingness to talk at our (non-legal) level and go at our pace, ability to think out of the box, and extremely strong communication skills.’
‘Ian Gordon, Ruth Tobias and Cameron McCulloch – all very approachable, commercial and pragmatic.’
‘Ian Gordon is down-to-earth, diligent and practical. Demonstrates huge amount of knowledge/expertise and is able to explain in layman terms. Prepared to give an opinion and be challenged and equally comfortable challenging others.’
‘Ian Gordon has carried out some excellent negotiations with difficult stakeholders. He always provides sound advice to the trustee and is happy to contribute in all aspects of the trustee’s work.’
‘Really focused on delivering pragmatic, customised, direct advice for their clients. Cuts through the legal background to explain issues and give quality advice to their clients.’
‘I always feel great confidence when speaking to Ruth Tobias. She will be fully aware of the legal background to her advice but gives strong well-guided suggestions and directive advice on how to move things forward. She cuts through complex issues and is not afraid to suggest alternatives when a client asks the wrong question!’
‘A strong and experienced team with strength in depth, very strong technical ability matched with a practical and, when circumstances require it, commercial approach. Very much a key part of the team when trustees are facing challenges.’
‘Cameron McCulloch: a real rising (probably now risen) star. Inspires confidence and communicates complex issues in clear terms.’
Plumbing & Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme
Babcock Naval Services Pension Scheme
HBG GA Pension Scheme
Barnett & Hall Holdings Pension Scheme
Ulster Supported Employment Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme
Edrington Group Pension Scheme/ Highland Distillers Pension Scheme
Strathclyde Pension Fund
University of Aberdeen Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
UPM-Kymmene UK Pension Scheme
Aberdeen City Council as Administering Authority of the North East Scotland Pension Fund
- Advising the trustees of the HBG GA Pension Scheme on all pension matters.
- Advised the trustees of the University of Aberdeen Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme on completing an exercise to consolidate the trust deed and rule for the scheme.
- Advising the committee of the Strathclyde Pension Fund on its legal duties and obligations on investment and climate change.
Shepherd and Wedderburn
Shepherd and Wedderburn has a fine reputation advising corporates and pension trustees with particular expertise in the financial services, higher education and energy sectors. Jointly led by consultant Andrew Holehouse, Edwin Mustard and Louisa Knox, who is particularly well versed in risk reduction measures and scheme restructuring, the team is noted for its broad offering spanning GMP equalisation requirements, governance, scheme investments and taxation alongside benefit and liability transfers. Senior associate Kirsty Headden is noted for her expertise in equalisation and scheme amendment issues, liability management exercises and statutory debt implications, and senior associate Richard Jones for his investment expertise.
Andrew Holehouse; Louisa Knox; Edwin Mustard
Other key lawyers:
Kirsty Headden; Richard Jones
‘Technically extremely able, cohesive and highly responsive team who are strong advisers, good on both the detail and the strategic view, and lovely people to work with.’
‘Louisa Knox is dynamic, thoroughly engaged with infectious enthusiasm and great technical and interpersonal skills.’
‘Shepherd & Wedderburn’s Scottish pension team is the best I have worked with. Their depth of knowledge and experience combined with their breadth of staff and resourcing is excellent. They are my ‘go-to’ pensions team.’
‘Louisa Knox – the best pensions lawyer in Scotland. Kirsty Headden is knowledgeable, approachable, very well liked by trustees, excellent on technical detail but a good all-rounder too.’
‘Andrew Holehouse’s knowledge of the pensions industry and legislation is, I believe, unrivalled. He is also a solution-provider rather than a problem-giver – he has helped us many times deal with very complex and sensitive issues in a comprehensive yet pragmatic way.’
‘The ability to explain complex legal terms in easy to understand language.’
‘We very much value the strength and depth of the Shepherd & Wedderburn pensions team. We always feel fully supported, no matter what issue we are dealing with.’
The Standard Life Staff Pension Scheme
ScottishPower Pension Scheme
Scottish Amicable Staff Pension Scheme
The Miller Group Pension Scheme
A.G. Barr plc Retirement Benefits Scheme
University of Edinburgh Staff Benefits Scheme
The University of St Andrews Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
Universal Music Group Pension Scheme
John Wood Group plc Retirement Benefits Scheme
Scottish Hydro-Electric Pension Scheme (SSE)
- Advising the trustee of the ScottishPower Pension Scheme on various tax queries; and advising and negotiating terms relating to various investment changes and re-structuring.
- Advising the trustee of the Scottish Amicable Staff Pension Scheme on ongoing legal matters for the scheme, including the impact of the Lloyds case on Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) equalisation and the steps necessary to implement the ruling.
- Advising the trustees of the Belmond UK Limited 2003 Pension Scheme, sponsored by the UK-based Belmond Group, on a reorganisation of the scheme and its security arrangements.
Advising on group restructurings and projects aimed at de-risking defined benefit pension schemes constitutes a key element of Brodies LLP's practice, along with assisting in the move of existing schemes to master trust arrangements. Clients, including trustees, corporates, public sector pension funds and councils, also benefit from the team's transactional capabilities alongside its expertise in defined contribution schemes. Juliet Bayne heads up the team and is supported by public sector pension work specialist Jordan Halliday (associate) and associate Jen Crawford, who handles a wide range of matters including risk reduction, flexible apportionment arrangements and scheme re-documentation.
Other key lawyers:
Jordan Halliday; Jen Crawford; Maureen Burns; Mairi Carlin
Menzies Pension Fund (Trustees of the John Menzies plc defined benefit pension fund)
BPI Pension Trustees Limited (Trustee of the British Polythene Pension Scheme)
Trustees of the Howden Group Pension Plan
Trustees of the Gates UK Pension Scheme
North East Scotland Pension Fund/Aberdeen City Council
Trustees of the Aon McMillen Retirement Benefits Scheme
Trustees of the AES Ballylumford Pension Scheme
Trustees of the Metals and Mainetti Pension Scheme
- Advised Aberdeen City Council / North East Scotland Pension Fund on the buy-in for the Aberdeen City Council Transport Fund.
- Advised the trustees of the Howden Group Pension Plan on converting a major buy-in contract to a buy-out, including GMP equalisation.
- Advised the trustees of the Menzies Money Purchase Pension Scheme on finalising a bulk transfer to a master trust and winding up and terminating the scheme.
Burness Paull LLP is particularly rated for its strength in the transactional space, advising clients on the pensions aspects of M&A, private equity investments, refinancings and restructurings. Team head Sarah Phillips is a key figure in this space, acting for an extensive roster of trustees and national and international companies with a specialism in the financial services sector; she shares this sector expertise with director Deborah Adam. Other regular work includes advice on pension scheme liabilities and scheme administration.
Other key lawyers:
Margaret Meehan; Deborah Adam
‘The Burness Paull team is very good, thorough and diligent.’
‘Margaret Meehan is cool, calm and collected.’
‘What makes their service a bit different is the level of understanding they have accumulated as well as the close and flexible personal attention they give us. They are proactive with suggestions for improvement.’
‘I consider Deborah Adam and Sarah Phillips to be stand-out in their professionalism and dedication. They have built an excellent rapport with the trustee which is not always an easy thing to do!’
‘A strong team able to effectively manage service and delivery of advice in all circumstances.’
‘Margaret Meehan carries a deep understanding of our client structure and needs and uses this to help tailor her approach and advice to specific questions as they arise.’
‘Professional, courteous and can-do attitude with clear, helpful and prompt advice. A great partner.’
‘Sarah Phillips is excellent – very clear in a complex area, understands the commercial points and communicates well engendering trust.’
The Pension SuperFund
JCB Finance Limited Pension Scheme
Nucleus Financial Group
John Menzies plc
Phoenix Life & Standard Life
Lloyds Banking Group
Devro Limited (UK) Pension Scheme
The Glenmorangie Company Ltd Pension Scheme
Ahlstrom Pension Scheme
- Advised the Pension SuperFund, the UK’s first pension scheme consolidator vehicle, on structuring and documenting its capital buffer fund.
- Advised the Menzies group on the impact of its pension liabilities on various business critical projects.
- Advised Mackays Stores Limited and its administrators on the pension aspects of the company’s pre-pack administration, including the rescue of its pension scheme.
DWF provides employers and trustees across various sectors with transactional and restructuring support and with advice on investments, benefit transfers, wind-ups and compliance matters. Led by June Crombie, the team also advises insurers on pension scams.
Other key lawyers:
‘June Crombie is a dependable source of guidance on all legal matters which arise. She frequently attends our meetings but whether in attendance or not she is aware of what we are dealing with and is happy to be involved where the trustees feel her input would add value. I have worked with many legal firms over the years.’
‘We greatly value June Crombie’s dependable advice when we need it.’
‘The team provides a very thorough service delivery with clearly laid-out advice provided in a timely manner. The teams work closely and constructively with other advisers (actuaries and accountants) to provide a coherent joined up service to the client.’
‘I’ve worked closely with Colin Greig and June Crombie over the past year on various issues on different clients and found them both to provide clear, detailed and structured advice on a range of issues. They work very constructively with others in the adviser group and are an integral and valued part of the client team. The detail and clarity in their communication gives every confidence that there is no stone unturned in the advice they provide. Both have an excellent profile in the Scottish pensions consultancy market.’
‘An excellent team who gives practical advice on a complex pension matters. The advice is always very clear and geared to the specific needs of the client.’
‘The individual partner I deal with is very approachable and knowledgeable. He has a very good and calm manner which gives his clients reassurance.’
Cornwall County Council
Church of Scotland
Cigna 2000 UK Pension Plan
Mowi Scotland Limited (formerly Marine Harvest Limited)
Mattioli Woods plc
Aliter Capital LLP
Shareholders of Laser Transport International Limited
Element Materials Technology Group Limited
Glennon Brothers Timber Limited
- Advised Cornwall Council on the pensions aspects of the procurement and completion of the largest waste collection and cleansing contract in the UK, including a novel pensions arrangement as part of a significant and complex arrangement.
- Advised Q-Park Limited on the pensions aspects of a £16m contract relating to the development of two multi-storey car parks for an NHS Trust.
- Supporting AC TGP I Limited on the pensions aspects of an acquisition.
MacRoberts LLP receives regular instructions from trustees and employers on a wide spectrum of matters, such as wind-ups, M&A transactions and funding, while public sector clients have retained the team to assist with procurement-related pension matters in the transport sector. James Keith is a key contact for asset-based funding arrangements and part of the team led by Martyn Shaw. Alongside the public sector, the team also acts for a number of third, transport, civil engineering and retail sector clients, among others.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team is extremely personable and very client-focused. They offer strong value for money and have a great understanding of what the client is looking for.’
‘All very approachable and personable but with a keen eye for detail and the practical implications of their advice.’
‘MacRoberts has a quality pensions team with an excellent knowledge of pensions law. I use the team principally where clients require input on Scottish law issues and have always been impressed with the quality of advice and turn-around times. The team is also accessible and approachable which is important on time-critical projects.’
‘I worked with Martyn Shaw on a large project for a key client where advice on Scottish law issues was required. Martyn had a great knowledge and experience of the matters on which advice was required, and importantly was a good and proactive communicator both on legal and wider project management issues. ’
‘The MacRoberts pensions team has an excellent profile in the Scottish pensions market and is known for providing pragmatic and cost-effective solutions to pension scheme clients of all sizes, across the public and private sector. The team clearly demonstrates an attitude of wanting to help their clients, and are genuinely enjoyable to work with.’
‘Martyn Shaw provides robust but pragmatic advice to clients. His relaxed but highly professional delivery style, coupled with his experience in the industry instils confidence that his advice is tailored and relevant to particular client issues. Together with James Keith, they have an excellent reputation and are highly regarded in the Scottish market and beyond.’
‘The team is pragmatic and are focused on the outcome. They do not spend time going down pointless legal rabbit-holes but focus on the objective to achieve the best result for their client. ’
‘James Keith is highly skilled technically but can refine that technical knowledge down to what is key in each assignment. James looks to find the best ways to achieve a desired outcome. He is doggedly persistent and a good man to have on your team. He is prepared to look outside the box to find the optimum solutions and focus on what really matters in delivering a result.’
The trustees of the Noble Drilling (Land Support) Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustees of the C Brewer & Sons Ltd Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustee of the Martin Currie Retirement and Death Benefits Plan
The trustees of the Babtie Group Ltd Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme
The trustee of the Edinburgh Airport Pension Plan
The trustee of the T.P.S. Benefits Scheme
The trustees of the Martin Currie Retirement and Death Benefits Plan
The trustees of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme
The trustees of the TGI Pension Scheme
The trustees of the Jacobs Defined Contribution Plan (UK)
- Advised the trustees of the Noble Drilling (Land Support) Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme on the proposed terms of and the implications for the Scheme of a $3.4bn restructuring plan involving the sponsoring employers’ NYSE-listed parent company and various group companies.
- Advised the trustees of two pension schemes relating to the Jacobs group of companies on the recertification with the Pension Protection Fund of a major asset-backed funding arrangement.
- Advised the trustee of the Chivas Brothers Pension Scheme on the covenant implications of a significant corporate restructuring transaction.
The CMS team, led by Alastair Hill, received a boost with the arrival of Jae Fassam from Pinsent Masons LLP in October 2020. The team advises trustees, corporates and public sector clients on a diverse array of topics, including scheme mergers, benefit changes and scheme documentation.
Other key lawyers:
‘Superb legal briefings and webinars.’
‘Jae Fassam is a real steal from Pinsent Masons.’
‘The approachable nature of the team and no question is too trivial to answer is a breath of fresh air compared to other legal teams I have worked with. The breadth of knowledge is excellent.’
‘When approached for advice, the team will advise on this but will also broaden out the advice if they feel the issues is broader than the question raised. Most other firms will only advise on the question asked even if there are broader issues to be considered.’
‘Jae Fassam is always approachable and supportive. His advice is spot-on and he works well with all our advisers. He is always at the end of the phone.’
‘Jae Fassam has been an excellent piece of recruitment by CMS. He has slotted right into the core team and we very much value his incredibly clear and pragmatic advice.’