From source to sea – the consolidation of master trusts

to the sea

The main thing is that the water gets to the sea


As part of some work for one of our intermediaries, I’ve been asked to make sense of the smaller master trusts and give a view on which of them are likely to be around in their current form in the years to come.

This blog is a work in progress, if you have market information you can send me, please do, if I have made a mistake, please correct it by emailing me at


Three aggregators emerging

My view is that there are three aggregators emerging which have sustainable business models

Blue Sky Pension Scheme

Carey Pension Trust

Smart Pensions

I will explain why and how I think they will achieve scale.


Blue Sky

Blue Sky is partially owned by Unite the Union and partly by JIB. It has strong roots and a sound management. It has an independent board of trustees chaired by Tony Filbin. Tony has just become Chair of Capital Cranfield Pension Trustees.  As well as the Blue Sky Pension Scheme, it offers a number of smaller propositions all using the Corporate Pension Trust, the Blue Sky administrative platform and a range of target dated funds established by Alliance Bernstein and managed on the Architas Investment Platform.

The smaller propositions all share the same scheme  managed by Corporate Pensions Trust (00805962RF) and are…

Fairstone Pension Trust

Strawberry Pensions

which are effectively satellite schemes to

Trust Pensions

which is effectively a satellite scheme to

Lighthouse Pension Trust

The Corporate Pension Trustees are Bridge Street, 100% owned by Eversheds (the law firm)

All the funds invested in all these propositions seem to revert to the investment consultancy of Elston Consulting and the investment itself is made through the Birthstar Funds, a variant of the Alliance Bernstein Target Date Funds which sit on the Architas platform (currently) owned by Axa (but up for sale).

Why we need so many propositions I don’t know. My sources suggest that they will all merge and that Blue Sky will continue to trade as the Blue Sky Pension Scheme and offer services to the Corporate Pensions Trust and its variants


There appear to be two rival groups to BlueSky


Carey Pensions

Carey Pensions was set up by Carey Olsen, the Channel Island law and is a diversified financial services provider with what appears to be a sustainable business model.

The Carey Pension Trustees don’t give much away about themselves but we know that their first directors were Christine Hallett and Gordon Parkes. Pitmans act as Chair of the Trustees.

Carey Pensions also has a number of variants .  The Carey Pension Trustees offer The Carey Workplace Pension Trust (0078745ORX) .

They also offer a similar service to the (Bluesky) Corporate Pensions Trust to a number of smaller schemes. Unlike the Corporate Pension Trust variants, these aren’t  administered under the same scheme number so each is a separate legal entity

The smaller schemes that Carey administers are

The Islamic Pension Trust– the HMRC ref no is 00810588RQ – this is a Sharia orientated master trust overseen by Alrayan Bank

Amber Pension Trust (using Blackrock TDFs with a management overlay by Tatton Investment management) 00806524rx

There appears to be a satellite of Amber known as Simplicity Pension  run by AVN Wealth Managers. We think this sits beside Amber like the satellite schemes to Lighthouse within Corporate P

Family Asset Pension Trust – promoted by Forth Communications and invested by Quilter Cheviot 00813620RD

 AGL Master Trust . AGl is an advisory firm in Scotland with close ties to ICAS and the Law Society. (HMRC number currently unknown)

The Company Pension Scheme (run by the Smarter Web Company and Corporate Pensions Ltd)  00787450RX.

Carey Pensions  are also administrates the Close Brothers master trust – also known as YourWorkplacePension (which is now JLT owned).

There are other routes to market for Carey, they include the Brooks Macdonald white-label of the Carey Workplace Pension Trust and un-named others. These serve an important role in giving confidence to advisers and clients that there is an endorsed alternative to NEST.

I’m told that Carey in total administers over 50,000 auto-enrolment accounts , so they appear to be at or approaching “scale”.


 There is one further aggregator- Smart Pensions

Smart Pensions also trades under Auto-enrolment UK which is the name of its website

Smart Pensions  is managing  GenLife (formerly Friendly Pensions) and is openly looking to absorb further business. We understand that the intention is for GenLife and to ultimately be absorbed into Smart (which would make sense).

Both Smart and GenLife share Capital Cranfield as its chair of trustees.

Smart is investing heavily in marketing and has recently taken on personnel from Trust Pensions (now merged with Lighthouse) and from GenLife.

We were uncomfortable with the initial investment governance at Smart and are pleased to hear that this is currently under review.

In our opinion, Smart has a credible business model and is likely to prosper through 2016 and beyond.


 The kings of the jungle among the consolidators

There seems to be a fluid group of people who inhabit this space, including Christine Hallett and Paul Bannister and Andrew Evans, the respective CEOs of Carey, BlueSky and Smart Pensions.

Henry Cobbe seems to have feet in many camps as investment organiser and consultant .

Griselda Williams(Smart) ,Will Wynne(Smart) and Graham Peacock(Carey) -are the principal salespeople.

The rest of the small ones

Of course there are a large number of master trusts behind these three consolidators

They include;-


Salvusis about to consolidate its variant – the Spinnaker master trust- this is owned by Goddard Perry – the pensions consultancy; Salvus offers a white-labelled variant through the IFA Wren Sterling.

National Pension Trust

This is owned by Xafinity – the pensions consultancy and invests in Zurich Funds.

Since publishing this blog, National Pension Trust  has been in touch to remind me of its high opinion of itself.

… the following points should be of most relevance:

We have the AAF 02/07 independent accreditation

It is PQM ready

It has a five year plus track record, having been established in 2009

Combining all these four points puts us in a universe of one, from over 100 possibles. The Trustees are Ian Davies (Eversheds), Michael Brown (Portsoken Consultancy and former Head of Compliance at JLT) and HR Trustees.

Thanks for that- National Pension Trust! If you could just submit this wondrous scheme to due diligence, Pension PlayPen would be delighted to confirm the veracity of this claim!

Creative Pension Trust

This is owned by Creative Benefits – the pensions consultancy and invests in Scottish Widows funds

Smarter Pensions (Pension Trust)

Not to be confused with Smart Pensions, Smarter is owned by the Pension Trusts and (we understand) may be marketing itself under that banner – which might be “smarter” as it is only open to charities, not for profits and social housing groups.



I have written about on these pages – a stand alone proposition – this invests in Legal and General funds



A small East Anglian based master-trust with strong links to certain payroll bureaux.


Super trust

Supertrust is run by  enthusiasts Malcolm Delahaye and Dennis Kemp-theirs is  a stand alone proposition – it invests in a variety of funds and exclusively offers the Dimensional Managed DC concept

Corpad (Peak Master Trust)

this is owned by Corpad- the pensions consultancy). This is white labelled as the Peak Master Trust. We know little about this pension.

 (please note- this section is likely to grow over time as I include more master trusts). A fuller list of master trusts is available from Professional Pensions (without analysis). This  list is also available at the bottom of this article.


Consolidators or consolidated?

All of the above have the capacity to absorb or be absorbed either into each other or into the larger master trusts, NOW, People’s and even NEST.

The insurers seem more or less to given up mass-marketing their master trust products – though most of them have one and some of them are very large).

A note on accreditation

Almost all small master trusts are looking for some form of accreditation. This can be achieved either through the use of online platforms (principally Defaqto, Pension PlayPen, F&TRC and Husky) or through the attainment of a professional mark. The most important of these marks is the Mastertrust assurance framework (administered by the ICAEW and promoted by the Pensions Regulator. Other marks include the Pension Quality Mark and variants.

The costs to providers vary from those that are free to use (Pension PlayPen) through those you pay to be rated (DeFaqto) through to the substantial cost (and kudos) of the Mastertrust Assurance Framework (MAF).

The cost of accreditation appears to be driving consolidation and we would expect each of the consolidators to be accredited only once. Whether the small independent firms will continue to trade without the MAF is unlikely. We know of a number of the smaller firms who have either applied for MAF and are awaiting accreditation or are considering doing so.

So what should you do?

If you are an intermediary or a small employer looking at one of these propositions, you need to do due diligence. You are choosing not to invest with the big schemes and you must have a clear reason why.

The risk you run is the risk that you are not investing staff money with an outfit that has a sustainable business plan and that it won’t be around to pay out. What might happen it your provider decides to call it a day? It can either consolidate or go bust.

Is consolidation damaging to member outcomes? I don’t think it is. There is no reason why a small tributary should not enter the sea as part of a mighty river and not lose in the process. Frankly it does not really matter whether your tributary has the same name as the estuary so long as you get to the ocean in good shape.

Where the danger is , is in a master trust suffering from malfeasance and going bust, jeopardising its investments and its member’s outcomes. In my opinion, the consolidation of master trusts is a good thing in that it whips in the stragglers and reduces the risk of calamity.

There may be more risk in investing in an outlier which intends to go it alone and we would strongly suggest that any intermediary or employer looking to recommend or participate in a small master trust has a clear idea of the company it keeps or its business plan to stay solo.




The full list – courtesy of Professional Pensions

Note- those marked in bold are not currently being offered to SMEs for auto-enrolment (as far as we know).

The Amber Pension Trust
The Aon MasterTrust
Atlas Master Trust (Capita Employee Benefits) + (see note)
The Beaufort Consulting Master Trust
The BBS MasterPlan
The BlackRock Master Trust
BlueSky Pension Scheme +
The Carey Workplace Pension Trust
The Cheviot Trust
Citrus Pension Plan
The Company Pension Scheme (Carey Pensions)
Corpad Mastertrust
Creative Pension Trust (Creative Auto Enrolment)
Fairstone Pensions Trust (TRUST|Pensions)
Family Asset Protection Company (Carey Pensions)
The Federated Pension Plan
The Federated Retirement Savings Plan
Fidelity Master Trust
Friendly Pensions Mastertrust (see note)
The Friends Life Master Trust
Genlife (see note) (now sponsored by Smart Pension)
GPC Auto Enrolment Master Trust
Islamic Pension Trust (Carey Pensions)
The Legal & General Mastertrust (WorkSave Pension Mastertrust)+
LifeSight (Towers Watson)^+
The Lighthouse Pensions Trust
Little Blue (Lorica)
Mercer Master Trust
Moore Stephens Pensions Master Trust
The NAEA ARLA Master Trust (The National Association of Estate Agents)
National Employment Savings Trust (NEST)*+
National Pension Trust (Xafinity Consulting)*+
Now Pensions*+
Nurture Pensions
PFP Group Master Trust
The People’s Pension (B&CE)*+
The Pensions Trust+ (Smarter Pensions)
Pensions Umbrella Trust (Dean Wetton Advisory)
The Plumbing and Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme
The Premier DB Solution (Premier Pensions Management)
The Premier Life Master Trust (Premier Pensions Management)
The Premier Retirement Saver (Premier Pensions Management)
The Prudential Platinum scheme
Railways Pension Scheme Industry Wide Defined Contribution Section+
Salvus Master Trust (Goddard Perry Consulting)
SEI Master Trust^
Smart Pension Master Trust (See name)
Standard Life Master Trust
The Spinnaker Master Trust (Goddard Perry Consulting)
Strawberry Workplace Pension (TRUST|Pensions)
SuperTrust UK
Workers Pension Trust
Welplan Pensions*+
YourWorkplacePension (Close Brothers Asset Management)
Zurich Master Trust (Zurich)



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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12 Responses to From source to sea – the consolidation of master trusts

  1. Henry this is a great summary of Trust providers.

    Just one small point, providers don’t pay to be rated by Defaqto – we rate all AE schemes where there are standard terms and conditions (occasionally irrespective of the providers wishes).

  2. Nigel Heaton says:

    Thanks for updating our entry Henry.

  3. henry tapper says:

    Thanks for the clarification Richard.

  4. Paul McBride says:

    How are you defining aggregator Henry?

  5. henry tapper says:

    I probably mean consolidator Paul, pulling together – I’ll have to think through the difference

  6. Maybe we all need to have a chat, BlueSky is open to discussion with other Mastertrusts that may need support in administration or governance issues.

  7. Steve Brice says:

    Thanks Henry really useful and thought provoking. As you know I have been pondering this exact topic for some time now but it is always useful to get some facts around the topic. Keep posting!!

  8. Paul McBride says:

    Wee bit of a delayed reply Henry – apologies.

    I’d have thought that consolidator Mastertrusts will, in the main, be those with access to an investment platform better capable of mirroring/absorbing extant investment strategies (provided, naturally, that they are suitable) rather than those Mastertrusts that have an inflexible (or less flexible) investment strategy wherein a transfer will, in all likelihood, involve a change of investment strategy with attendant transition cost. Since this is a key consideration for the transferring trustees, I’d expect them to be looking far beyond the consolidators you’ve listed provided, of course, that those Mastertrusts are willing to listen to them. I’d argue therefore that there are probably two distinct consolidation markets, differentiated by the size of the assets under consideration. .

  9. henry tapper says:

    That makes sense Paul, though the assets of the smaller “consolidated” master trusts will be so small, I suspect that a change of strategy will be regarded by the Trustees as not much more than a recognition of a false start. Does this make sense?

  10. Paul McBride says:

    It does make sense Henry – thanks for replying.

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