Trustees' duties and responsibilities.

Key duties of SSAS trustees

To ensure a Small Self Administered Scheme (SSAS) qualifies for various legislative exemptions and has as much investment flexibility as possible. It can have no more than 11 members, each of whom is a trustee. All trustee decisions are made with the unanimous agreement of the member trustees.

Member trustees are responsible for the day to day running of the SSAS and for all the investment decisions. 

Roles and responsibilities of trustees

Trustees are responsible for making sure the SSAS is run well and the benefits are secure for the beneficiaries.

It is important that each trustee is fully aware of their obligations as outlined below:

  • Act in line with the trust deed and rules

The trust deed and rules, together with pensions legislation, tell trustees what their powers are  and the procedures they must follow. They are important documents and, therefore, the trustees must be familiar with them and with any other documents relating to the operation of the scheme.

  • Act prudently, responsibly and honestly

Trustees must act in a way that an ordinary prudent person of business would take in managing their own affairs. This means, for example, that when deciding whether to exercise a power, trustees must consider the circumstances impartially, having taken account of all the relevant facts, and must seek professional advice if necessary.
Naturally, trustees must not make any unauthorised personal profit at the expense of the fund although those who are also members can of course receive authorised retirement benefit payments.

In a Dentons’ SSAS all member trustees, along with a Professional Trustee, will together be the ‘scheme administrator’ for the purposes of the pension tax legislation. In addition each of those appointed as scheme administrator must be able to declare themselves as a ‘fit and proper person'.

There is an ongoing obligation for trustees to maintain a sufficient level of knowledge throughout their appointment as a trustee. This can be an onerous obligation for pension trustees, particularly as pension’s legislation can be very complex and they should obtain and follow specialist professional advice when necessary. 

Dentons’ Professional Trustee, Denton & Co Trustees Limited, will be appointed to assist member trustees in running the SSAS.

  • Act in the best interests of beneficiaries

Trustees must act in the best interests of the scheme’s beneficiaries. A beneficiary is anyone who is entitled to, or who might receive, a benefit from the scheme, now or in the future.

  • Act impartially

Trustees must consider the interests of all the classes of beneficiary covered by the trust deed and rules, and act impartially between them. Trustees have to act fairly between beneficiaries too, weighing the interests of a particular beneficiary against the need to protect the interests of the beneficiaries as a whole. 

Powers of investment

The trust deed and rules give the trustees the same powers of investment as though they were absolutely entitled to the scheme assets, subject to any specific restrictions imposed by those rules and pensions legislation. 

The trust deed and rules also allow the trustees to delegate their powers of investment to others but where they do, they remain accountable for the actions taken by their delegates. 

The Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator is the UK regulator of work-based pension schemes (e.g. trust based occupational pension schemes which includes SSASs) and is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Codes of practice for the trustees of such schemes are available on the Pensions Regulator’s website and the most relevant one for the trustees of a SSAS is Code of Practice No. 13 which can be viewed online.