Communicating with your board – our top takeaways

Communicating investment recommendations to board members ranks among the top challenges facing pension decision makers today, especially when those members are lay trustees. Our Congressional Huddle at the 2023 International Best Practices Forum brought pension decision makers together to work through a case study where they were asked to address a panel of trustees, both lay and expert, and make a recommendation on a specific investment strategy. In return, our board member panel had a few tips to share that could help them become better communicators to trustees. Here’s what they had to say:

Make it about the risk/return equation – When you’re talking about new types of investment, make sure the board understands how they fit within the larger context of risk and return. This includes having a conversation about downside risk and diversification.

Focus on the investment, not the manager – Boards should not be choosing managers. Rather, they should be approving strategies and investments in concept only while leaving the manager selection decision up to staff.

Take a two-step approach – Before asking the board to adopt a new strategy or investment, focus on education beforehand. That can be a white paper on the topic or a presentation. Take their feedback and integrate it into your recommendation so that it addresses their specific concerns and pain points.

Trust and verify – Help boards understand the questions they need to ask staff about any new approach or investment. This “trust and verify” approach ensures accountability falls in the right place and allows board members to ensure decisions are being made prudently.

Interested in joining us at the 2024 DB Pension New Ideas Forum? Please contact Joanne Boccia at