This update sets out the measures taken by Open Trustees Limited (Open Trustees) to ensure that we continue to operate on a business as usual basis during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. This will be updated from time to time as the Covid-19 pandemic develops.
Osborne Clarke’s ownership of Open Trustees
Osborne Clarke (OC), an international law firm, owns Open Trustees. Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic is, therefore, supported by OC.
OC has built a robust infrastructure over the years which will ensure that we can continue to manage our schemes effectively throughout this crisis. A cross-functional situation management team manages OC’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has allowed quick and effective decision making and planning teams across OC are addressing different potential scenarios to ensure that we can continue to provide the highest level of service in the weeks and months ahead.
All of our team members are working remotely.
All of our team members have been provided with the necessary equipment to allow them to work from home effectively and safely. This includes a secure laptop, access to a virtual private network, separate keyboards, additional monitors, a separate mouse, headsets, chargers and an iPhone.
All of our team members are contactable by telephone or e-mail in the normal way. Contact details for all of our team members can be found on the ‘People’ section of this website.
All of our team members have access to Open Trustees’ secure network through one remote log in. This includes access to the following applications and functions that allow us to continue to offer trustee services remotely during the course of the Covid-19 outbreak:
- Microsoft applications (in particular, Outlook e-mail and calendar, Word and Excel);
- iManage WorkSite (our electronic filing system);
- HighQ (our online cloud for scheme documentation);
- InTapp (our electronic time-recording system);
- Elite (our finance system); and
- All knowledge databases including Perspective and Practical Law Pensions.
All of our team members attend a daily meeting at which problems with working remotely are discussed as well as current workloads and requirements for input from the Pensions Managers and the directors of Open Trustees.
All of our team members have access to secure instant messaging groups.
In the event of an emergency, all of our team members have access to each other’s home addresses and other personal contact details.
All external meetings are now being held electronically using either Skype, Zoom or similar application as determined by the meeting attendees.
Current Open Trustees’ resource levels
All of our team members are fully operational and accessible at the current time but we will keep this under review as the Covid-19 pandemic develops should any team member need to enter social isolation, be shielded because of an underlying health condition or report sick (for whatever reason).
An additional Assistant Pensions Manager has recently joined us and is currently going through an on-line induction process. Should we have a sudden and unexpected increase in appointments or workloads, we have the flexibility to use the resources of OC’s pensions team.
Training and professional development
All of our team members continue to attend regular training sessions using Skype.
Access to OC / Open Trustees’ office in Bristol
OC / Open Trustees’ offices in Bristol are only accessible for the delivery of critical business functions. This currently includes the receipt of incoming post, scanning of items received, large-scale printing and dispatch of outgoing post. Social distancing is enforced for the small number of people who are still working at OC / Open Trustees’ offices in Bristol.
None of our team members are required to attend OC / Open Trustees’ offices.
This situation will be kept under constant review as the Covid-19 pandemic develops and Government restrictions are potentially increased.
Decision-making and delegation
Our decision-making framework remains operational with significant decisions affecting our schemes still requiring authorisation from two Open Trustees’ directors. This will be kept under constant review as the Covid-10 pandemic develops. So far as possible, we are keen to maintain the highest levels of scheme governance although our decision-making framework is sufficiently flexible to react to changing circumstances.
Execution of documents
Our decision-making framework is designed to allow the use of electronic signatures and, where appropriate, we have a license for Docusign software. If a deed is required, such a deed will need to be witnessed. So far as possible, we will ensure that the witness is independent but, if necessary, we will accept witnessing by a directors’ spouse, civil partner or other family member in the current circumstances.
We have designed a checklist to allow us to understand scheme-specific risks arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the actions that we should take to mitigate such risks. We will complete this checklist for all of our schemes in conjunction with our co-trustees (where applicable), the scheme administrator and the scheme’s other professional advisers.
We have already taken immediate steps to ensure that scheme administrators have robust business continuity plans in place and, in particular, that pension and other benefit payments are being made as and when they fall due.
We will communicate with all members of our schemes regarding the current Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on them. We will keep this website updated with any significant developments.