Firms To Watch: Pensions

Lynette Lewis  plays a pivotal role at Shoosmiths LLP and frequently acts for both trustees and employers. Lewis is particularly rated for her pensions transactional experience.

Pensions in West Midlands

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Under the leadership of Emma King , the first-class team at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP continues to advise on a myriad of complex pension matters for various household names. The practice also advises the trustees of many of the Midlands’ most prominent pension schemes and is home to Gary Delderfield , the head of the national public sector pensions department. Sarah Franklin  has a wealth of experience in advising trustees and scheme sponsors on all aspects of occupational pension schemes. King continues to be involved in diverse issues such as pension scheme restructurings and benefit re-design projects. Principal associate Gavin Paul  possesses significant experience in advising trustees and sponsoring employers operating in the private sector on the full gamut of issues.

Practice head(s):

Emma King

Testimonials

‘Excellent communicators. Very responsive to client needs. Very experienced and knowledgeable on all pension matters. Eversheds as a company has a very focused and highly user friendly approach to its clients. Its training and diversity policies are of the highest standard’.

‘Emma King leads a team of very dedicated and experienced individuals. Emma puts her clients front and centre and has excellent listening skills. Emma is very skilful in selecting the right members of her team to support particular tasks. Sarah Franklin acts as an excellent and very professional alternate partner with an extensive knowledge of the pension scheme within the team. Tom Meyrick has developed into an excellent senior associate and has all the requisite skills to provide consistent and reliable support to Emma and Sarah’.

Very much part of the integral team. Sarah Franklin and Tom Meyrick are always available and respond in a timely way to requests, tailoring responses to our specific needs’.

‘The lawyers genuinely work as a team, complementing each other. They listen, understand our needs & offer pragmatic advice; it’s ‘applied pensions law’, not just the theory. Georgina Rankin and James Ellis are excellent’.

‘It really cares about its clients. Sarah Franklin leaves no stone unturned and is very cautious to protect trustees and members, but will listen and be more commercial when appropriate too‘.

‘The team is very proactive. Georgina Rankin is very commercially aware and pragmatic whilst James Ellis ensures we have all the relevant details so they fit well together’.

The lawyers are very personable, clearly like to build a relationship – it doesn’t feel like they are “on the clock” every second. Very experienced team – seems to have a wide range of skills and experience of different jobs/projects/scenarios. Takes a practical approach – quickly understand what you want and if they don’t they check. James Ellis – sociable, understands what we want, turns things round quickly, broad experience. Emma King – very personable, supportive, gets to the points, sees the issue quickly’.

‘Responsiveness and ability to translate and resolve complex, technical issues. The team was very responsive and made themselves available at very short notice allowing tight deadlines to be achieved. Emma King’s extensive experience of M&A situations. Alex Lane stood out as a very competent associate and impressed us with his clear delivery of advice’.

Key clients

Ultra Electronics Pension Scheme

Trustee of the Clara Pension Trust

Trustee of the Midland Independent Newspapers Pension Scheme

The Baptist Pension Scheme

The William Hill Pension Scheme

The Goodyear Dunlop Tyres UK Limited Pension Plan

Trustee of the FDR Limited Pension Scheme

Risk Settlement matters including Pathway – the joint buy-in proposition with Aon

Lancashire County Council

Various Local Government Pension Scheme administering authorities

Work highlights

    Gowling WLG

    Gowling WLG enjoys a stellar reputation for its work on a broad range of issues, from scheme advisory and employer advisory work, through to to pensions risk transfers and pensions disputes. Richard Black has particular expertise in advising both corporates and trustees on the pensions aspects of major deals whereas Paul Carberry  advises a broad mix of trustees and employers. Elizabeth Gane  is primarily trustee focused and advises on complex funding issues, mergers and restructurings in addition to benefit changes. Christopher Stiles and Joanne Tibbott  are also well-regarded, as is Richard Lee .

    Practice head(s):

    Jason Coates

    Testimonials

    People are extremely knowledgeable but also very down to earth, responsive and pragmatic. They try to get to know us really well’.

    ‘Richard Black: very strong lead partner with vast knowledge and experience, he instils confidence with his responses but also is not afraid to listen to and take on board others’ views. He is very supportive of his team and promotes them well when credit is due. Ben Goldby: really strong second in command for our account, communicates excellently and manages ongoing activity really efficiently. He is also a very strong adviser in his own right’.

    ‘I feel like they put the client first and not their needs or desire to sell or bill more work. Good communicators, practical, commercial and pragmatic advice. Lead partner brings in individuals from across the practice for specific work that gives deep expertise when required. Takes time to understand what is required and very transparent on fees and billing – friendly, approachable and works collaboratively with you to find the right solution’.

    ‘The team we deal with at Gowlings is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. When non-standard work is agreed, this is delivered on time and is pitched so that it is both practical and cost-effective to implement‘.

    ‘Jo Tibbott and Ali Garton are the two people we see most of from Gowling. Both are well on top of current developments in legislation and regulation. We also use Gowlings to help with complaints or disputes from members and they advise us well when these arise, including references to the Pensions Ombudsman’.

    ‘Richard and Charlotte Whitehead and the team continue to be a real pleasure to work with, providing knowledgeable and clearly understandable advice in a timely manner‘.

    Chris Styles provides excellent technical advice in a very engaging way‘.

    Key clients

    Mitchells & Butlers Pension Plan

    John Townsend Trust

    Work highlights

    • Advised the Trustees of the Mitchells & Butlers Plans on all matters, including, in the case of the Main Plan, successful High Court litigation against the sponsoring employer, Mitchells & Butlers plc. It has also advised on the proposed transfer of the Executive Plan to an insurance company, to facilitate its ultimate winding up with all benefits insured.
    • Advised the trustee of the John Townsend Trust Pension and Assurance Scheme in connection with an insurance transaction to secure the benefits of members of the pension scheme with an insurance company.

    Pinsent Masons LLP

    Simon Laight  heads the team in Birmingham at Pinsent Masons LLP which advises numerous £1bn+ schemes, both on the employer and the trustee side and many household names. Nick Stones advises trustees and corporate sponsors and is also known for his work on public sector pensions, catering to a client roster public sector bodies, educational institutions and commercial organisations. Daniel Shelley advises both trustees and employers of defined benefit and hybrid pension schemes while newly-promoted partner Katie Ivens frequently handles high-value projects. The team’s experience spans advising on complex funding issues and contingent assets to issues with the pensions regulator. 

    Testimonials

    Very capable pensions lawyers with a pragmatic approach to dealing with the challenges that trustees face. Very responsive. The whole team is very approachable and they will always try to find sensible and pragmatic solutions to complex legal issues. Applies across all the key team members – Daniel Shelley, Katie Ivens and Richard Williams‘.

    ‘The team has broad based knowledge and experience of the full range of issues affecting pension schemes and is able to use this in a pragmatic way to provide relevant advice and guidance. I find the lawyers easy to work with and value the input they provide‘.

    ‘The individuals I work with (Daniel Shelley and Katie Ivens) provide advice in a user friendly manner which is easily understood by clients, with the key points and the actions required clearly flagged. They are readily available and are able to communicate views and technical legal points to clients in an understandable and digestible manner’.

    ‘A responsive and collaborative firm.  Helen Murphy is approachable, innovative and forward looking’.

    ‘We consider the service provided of high quality. We are working with Nick Stones and Richard Williams. We highly esteem them. They are clever, thorough, client orientated, reactive and proactive‘.

    The team has a deep knowledge of the specifics of our pension scheme and also draws on its experience in the wider industry. Engagement with us as clients is very good and the lawyers have demonstrated their ability to adjust their resources to match our requirements both in terms of quantity and knowledge. We have absolute confidence in Pinsents as our legal partner‘.

    The main partner that I have dealt with recently is Katie Ivens. I appreciate her “can do” attitude and willingness to adjust her work pattern when required to ensure that our requirements and deadlines are met. I also observe that she makes a particular effort to involve her team members directly with the client whilst supporting them in that. She is a very personable individual who is easy to get on with but I have seen her demonstrate an “inner steel” when required in challenging discussions. She also has a talent for presenting and explaining complex legal issues in clear terms to non-legal people’.

    Key clients

    Babcock International Group Pension Scheme

    Michelin Pension & Life Assurance Plan

    Serco Plc

    Fujitsu Group

    Barratt Developments Plc

    [Trustee] GKN Pension Schemes

    [Trustee] Cadbury Mondelez Pension Fund

    Glanbia Group

    Zurich

     

    Work highlights

    • Advised SEI and the Trustee of the SEI Master Trust on the acquisition of the Atlas Master Trust. With the Atlas Master Trust and the SEI Master Trust in combination, SEI now manages approximately £2bn of assets under management in its DC mastertrust products.
    • Advised and supported numerous leading master trust providers and trustees, covering proposition development strategies, multiple multi-million-pound bulk transfers in, high-profile mergers and wind ups of authorised master trusts and current compliance challenges including ESG issues.

    Squire Patton Boggs

    Squire Patton Boggs fields a large practice nationally and internationally which has a proven track record of advising on a wide spectrum of issues such as regulatory compliance, disputes and de-risking. It has a strong market presence in regulated utilities, especially water, nuclear and electricity sponsored schemes. Matthew Giles  plays a pivotal role in the group which caters to more than 500 clients with over £400bn of pension assets. Philip Sutton  is the managing director of the Trustee Corporation Limited and Glyn Ryland is another leading figure in the group. Victoria Jeacock is skilled at advising on UK occupational pension schemes, private pension plans and public sector schemes. Kate-Emma Bailey was recently promoted to the partnership. 

    Practice head(s):

    Matthew Giles ; Clifford Sims

    Testimonials

    ‘Clear and pragmatic guidance on pensions issues. Victoria Jeacock provides us with high quality advice in a practical, friendly way’.

    SPB is a very thoughtful but practical pension advisory firm. Philip Sutton   is just the sort of lawyer you want by your side when navigating the complexity of pensions regulation and his approach is thoughtful while pragmatic – to get the job done efficiently’.

    ‘The lawyers’ commercial and pragmatic approach to the provision of advice and the common sense and clear way in which the advice is delivered are the stand outs for me. The innovative way in which they deliver their regular “key points” updates engages the reader. Their fee rates are also very keen’.

    ‘Matthew Giles and team are a joy to work with. They are always responsive, get to the point quickly and work really well with both the corporate and trustee bodies. Matthew has a real talent for building a relationship with his clients’.

    ‘The SPB team is knowledgeable and led by an experienced partner. The team has been able to draw in additional specialisms from the wider firm. The SPB team is one of the strongest teams I have been working with in the UK. The lawyers are down to earth, pragmatic and they provide real value to my business. They work fast and are agile. They are real business partners. They have an impressive expertise in pensions law and related areas’.

    ‘We  have worked closely with Matthew Giles – his knowledge of both our scheme and the wider pensions legislation and practical application have been very helpful. Matthew delivers on point advice that is tempered with a commercial insight and a keen understanding of the practicalities. His ability to outline issues and solutions in a way that is understandable to all is a quality that is rare but so very valuable. All in all, it means that things just get done’.

    ‘The SPB team has a truly personal approach to the professional service that it provides. Matthew Giles and Kate Bailey -they exceed your expectations in terms of what/when and how they deliver their advice. There is a feeling of collaboration and dedication to wanting the very best outcome for their client‘.

    ‘The pensions team is extremely proactive. The lawyers are on the ball and cut through the legalise to conclude sensible and pragmatic outcomes. I’m impressed by the quality of work and the way they advise both in meetings and outside. Kate Bailey is my partner contact. She attends trustee meetings and provides at these meetings commentary and advice that are sensible and extremely helpful in moving matters forward’.

    Key clients

    Goodyear Tyres

    Jaguar Land Rover Pension Trustees Limited

    Trustees of the Birmingham University Pension Scheme

    Trustees of the Sandvik Pension Plan 2001

    Trustee of the Meggitt Pension Plan

    Trustee of the GXO Logistics Pension Scheme

    The Trustee Corporation Limited

    Northamptonshire County Council

    IMI Pension Trust Limited

    Kerry Ingredients (UK) Limited

    Grafton Group (UK) Plc

    Aggregate Industries UK Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advising the Meggitt Pension Plan trustee on the £6.3bn takeover of Meggitt Plc by Parker Hannifin, Inc.
    • Advised the Goodyear Tyres on the pensions aspects of the $2.8bn acquisition of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company.
    • Advised the XPO pension scheme trustee on the spin-off of the XPO logistics business into GXO, an independent publicly traded company with annual revenue of over $7bn.

    Gateley Legal

    The team at Gateley Plc advises on the full range of pensions law issues, frequently advising trustees and employers on their duties and liabilities and supporting companies with their pensions issues. Michael Collins  heads the practice which also advises executive pension providers and other professionals; he has advised clients, including several owner managed businesses, in relation to their executive pensions and also frequently acts on multi-million pound pension funds for major international companies.

    Practice head(s):

    Michael Collins

    Testimonials

    ‘A compact and efficient team that provides pragmatic and commercial pensions advice. Michael Collins is one of the most knowledgeable pension lawyers in the market but provides advice in a clear and easy-to-understand way‘.

    ‘Very strong pensions lawyers. Thoughtful and sensible practice. Gets off the fence and gives clear advice. Michael Collins gives us clear well thought through advice. He is a highly intelligent lawyer who grasps the issues and helps us to find solutions’.

    Key clients

    A.S Watson (Health & Beauty UK) Pension Plan (Superdrug)

    Macmillan Pension Plan

    Hill & Smith 2016 Pension Scheme

    Charles River Pension Plan

    NCL Investments Limited Pension Scheme (Smith & Williamson)

    Britax Childcare Limited Pension Schemes

    Phoenix Medical Supplies Pension Scheme

    Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems (Europe) Pension Scheme

    Dunlop Slazenger Pension Scheme

    FTA Pension Plan

    Rexel UK Pension Scheme

    USDAW Staff Superannuation Fund

    Pension and Life Assurance Plan of EH Smith Westhaven

    Habib Bank Pension and Life Assurance Scheme

    Hortons’ Estate Limited 1978 Retirement Benefits Plan

    Work highlights

    • Producing benefit specification for a scheme with 19 different benefit structures.
    • Advising Britax Childcare Pensions Trust Limited on an unique triple buy-in.
    • Advising on the transfer of DC section to a master trust.

    Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP

    Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP possesses particular expertise in advising on public sector pension schemes as well as social housing pension schemes and universities superannuation schemes. Its client base includes many organisations which that have inherited staff from the public sector and it also demonstrates considerable strength in other industries such as health, social care and charities. Douglas Mullen is a known name for his work in the social housing and local government sectors in particular.

    Practice head(s):

    Anna Dabek

    Other key lawyers:

    Douglas Mullen

    Key clients

    Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund

    Thirteen Housing Group

    West Northamptonshire Council

    North Northamptonshire Council

    Connexus Housing

    Kemnal Academies Trust

    Housing Plus Group

    B3 Living

    National Autistic Society

    Sport & Leisure Management Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advising West Northamptonshire and North Northamptonshire Councils on the pensions aspects of their £1.1bn highways asset management contract.
    • Advising Connexus Group on the pensions aspects of their corporate restructure.
    • Advising Everyone Active on the local government pension scheme aspects of their bids for leisure contracts.

    Mills & Reeve LLP

    Mills & Reeve LLP has a wealth of experience in advising trustees of pensions schemes and employers on a wide range of pensions matters. It has particular expertise in the education field, as well as public sector pensions, and is bolstered by a strong national offering. Clare Grice is particularly recommended for her advice on public sector pensions, as well as her work on USS and SAUL in the education sector. Sarah Gosling is also well-regarded.

    Practice head(s):

    Clare Grice

    Other key lawyers:

    Sarah Gosling

    Testimonials

    The pensions team is small, but the deliverables are high quality and the fees are very competitive. Clare Grice was outstanding on the recent pensions project I worked with her on, where she was the lawyer and I was the actuary. She was personable, quick, pragmatic, and I know the trustees valued her contribution. She proved to be extremely capable, experienced, and helped deliver a very good outcome for the trustees‘.

    ‘The legal advice was of the highest quality, clear and timely. The responsiveness to questions raised by the trustees was swift and thorough. It felt as though we had the full attention of our primary contact and the wider team at Mills & Reeve‘.

    ‘Responsiveness and excellent communication were the differentiators that were consistently demonstrated by Clare Grice. She provided proactive and consistent guidance throughout the process and was thoroughly professional and courteous’.

    ‘Clear, easy to use, pragmatic advice which doesn’t require a GCSE in pensions to understand. Clare Grice – personable, great to chat through an issue and quick to follow up in writing‘.

    Key clients

    LG Harris & Co Limited Pension Scheme

    Brambles

    London Institute of Banking and Finance Pension Fund

    Cambridge Colleges Federated Pension Scheme

    Sisk UK Pension Scheme

    Thurlow Nunn Group Pension Scheme

    Trinity College Staff Pension Scheme

    Gifford Retirement Benefit Scheme

    Domino Printing Sciences plc

    Strutt and Parker Farms Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advised Domino plc on the establishment of a new DC arrangement within a master trust and on the bulk transfer of all assets/members from their existing DC scheme to that master trust arrangement.
    • Advised a university client on the amendment and restating of its credit facilities with a UK bank, and the impact of this on its participation in USS and SAUL.
    • Advised a trustee client in respect of a restructuring of the group in which its sponsoring employer sits, which involves the proposal to merge the three UK defined benefit schemes within the group.