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Anthony Arter, Pensions Ombudsman

Alumni spotlight

Anthony Arter

Pensions Ombudsman

Anthony joined Eversheds Sutherland in 1999, making Partner shortly afterwards. He assumed a number of leadership roles as Head of Pensions and Senior London Partner, among others. On leaving the firm in 2015, he was appointed the Pensions Ombudsman, later becoming a member of the Ombudsman Association, and in 2020 elected as its Chair.

As Anthony prepares to step down from his role as Pensions Ombudsman in January, he reflects on a distinguished career during which his greatest motivation throughout has been the human element.

What is it about pensions law that interests you?

When I first qualified as a corporate lawyer, I was asked to assist the Pensions Partner as she was going on maternity leave. I didn’t have any knowledge of pensions law but, as I got to grips with it, I found it immensely rewarding. It has intellectual challenge, but also a strong human element, as pension savings are often the most important lifetime investment for individuals, after possibly their home, if they own it.

What does being the Pensions Ombudsman entail?

The Pensions Ombudsman is an independent arms-length body from government. I’m the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer and I make judicial determinations on pensions complaints, both public and private. They can only be successfully challenged if my interpretation of the law is wrong, they cannot challenge my interpretation of the facts. I also determine complaints or disputes concerning decisions made by the Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Assistance Scheme.

I’ve recently set up a pilot – The Pensions Dishonesty Unit – to deal with the many pensions scams which are sadly occurring all too often. The unit is currently investigating a number of cases where around £50m has been lost. Each case requires me to hold an oral hearing.

It sounds as though you have a lot on your plate!

Well, I can’t say ‘no’ to a challenge, so for the past three years I have been a pro bono Trustee Board Director of the Action for Children Pension Fund. I also own a successful children’s day nursery which is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and I’ve been appointed to The Pensions Regulator’s independent Determinations Panel.

However, I’ll be taking some time back for myself when I stop working full time next January, when my term as the Pensions Ombudsman comes to an end.

You spent almost sixteen years at Eversheds Sutherland. How would you describe the firm’s culture?

One of the things I’ve loved about Eversheds is its diversity. It attracts so many different types of people. You don’t have to come from any particular school or university and it’s not just the lawyers, it’s everyone. That matters because its clients are from all walks of life so it’s important that its lawyers and business staff have the same cross-section of diversity.

Your tenure coincided with a period of rapid international expansion. Can you talk a little bit about that growth?

It has been the firm’s continuing ambition to expand its legal network in order to be a major world-wide provider of legal services. The firm has many international clients so it was necessary, if it was to continue to grow, to be able to provide a seamless service, especially in Hong Kong, Asia and the United States. It has now achieved that.

Although the firm has expanded globally, one of the keys to its success is the way in which it has kept its heart beating in a ‘localised’ way. I’ve always felt that it was a vital part of Eversheds Sutherland’s continuing strength and makes it different from most the other international law firms.

What are your most vivid memories from your time here?

My strongest memories are from the many volunteering initiatives which really underlined the firm’s ethos. Of course, it’s vital that the firm is profitable but it’s also really important that this is balanced by using some of its considerable resources to support the vulnerable in society.

This, I’m pleased to say, it has always done. I noticed this especially when, as the Senior London Partner, I was involved in and also led many volunteering activities, helping the firm to lead the way as a ‘good corporate citizen’.

One of my proudest moments was when Prince, now King Charles, appointed me as his London Ambassador for volunteering in 2009. It was as a result of my organising the Business in the Community’s Give and Gain Day. All our offices took part, and there were 3,000 plus employees from around 300 companies across the country participating in a day of volunteering, helping others in many different ways.

What is your approach to leadership?

As a leader, you need to step back and think through the pros and the cons of the decision that’s being made and who might be affected by it. I also strongly believe that when working through an issue, it’s important to be humble, keep an open mind and listen to other people's opinions. Lawyers like to think they have all the answers, but often the best solution is reached by consulting with others.

What advice would you give partners approaching retirement and seeking non-executive directorship roles?

When submitting a CV, don’t just look at roles within your particular specialism. Include any experience that will show the broader value that you’ll bring, including interpersonal and organisational skills.

The first NED appointment is always the trickiest as there will be dozens of people with non-executive experience. It may be best to first apply for pro bono roles, for example, at non-profit organisations, charities, etc., in order to build your non-executive CV. Also, contact a number of head-hunters and consider subscribing to major head-hunters’ notification lists.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been given any! However, it’s important to wipe out thoughts like, “Oh I shouldn’t really be here”, or, “I shouldn’t really be doing this”.

As Senior London Partner, I invited a number of black students from a comprehensive school in East London to experience life at a City law firm. I told them I’d been to a London comprehensive school too, and here I was, head of the London office. I wanted to show them what they could achieve and offered them work experience in different areas of the firm.

We don’t all start from an equal place, so it’s about being focused and deciding on what you want in life, accessing any additional resources needed to help you, then really going for it. There will be difficulties along the way so you need a degree of determination and self-confidence. And, of course, you need to embrace the opportunities you’re given.

If you would like to add Anthony Arter to your network, you can connect with him via LinkedIn.


 

When I first qualified as a corporate lawyer, I was asked to assist the Pensions Partner as she was going on maternity leave. I didn’t have any knowledge of pensions law but, as I got to grips with it, I found it immensely rewarding. It has intellectual challenge, but also a strong human element, as pension savings are often the most important lifetime investment for individuals, after possibly their home, if they own it.

 

What does being the Pensions Ombudsman entail?

 

The Pensions Ombudsman is an independent arms-length body from government. I’m the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer and I make judicial determinations on pensions complaints, both public and private. They can only be successfully challenged if my interpretation of the law is wrong, they cannot challenge my interpretation of the facts. I also determine complaints or disputes concerning decisions made by the Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Assistance Scheme.

 

I’ve recently set up a pilot – The Pensions Dishonesty Unit – to deal with the many pensions scams which are sadly occurring all too often. The unit is currently investigating a number of cases where around £50m has been lost. Each case requires me to hold an oral hearing.

 

It sounds as though you have a lot on your plate!

 

Well, I can’t say ‘no’ to a challenge, so for the past three years I have been a pro bono Trustee Board Director of the Action for Children Pension Fund. I also own a successful children’s day nursery which is rated outstanding by Ofsted, and I’ve been appointed to The Pensions Regulator’s independent Determinations Panel.

 

However, I’ll be taking some time back for myself when I stop working full time next January, when my term as the Pensions Ombudsman comes to an end.

 

You spent almost sixteen years at Eversheds Sutherland. How would you describe the firm’s culture?

 

One of the things I’ve loved about Eversheds is its diversity. It attracts so many different types of people. You don’t have to come from any particular school or university and it’s not just the lawyers, it’s everyone. That matters because its clients are from all walks of life so it’s important that its lawyers and business staff have the same cross-section of diversity.

 

Your tenure coincided with a period of rapid international expansion. Can you talk a little bit about that growth?

 

It has been the firm’s continuing ambition to expand its legal network in order to be a major world-wide provider of legal services. The firm has many international clients so it was necessary, if it was to continue to grow, to be able to provide a seamless service, especially in Hong Kong, Asia and the United States. It has now achieved that.

 

Although the firm has expanded globally, one of the keys to its success is the way in which it has kept its heart beating in a ‘localised’ way. I’ve always felt that it was a vital part of Eversheds Sutherland’s continuing strength and makes it different from most the other international law firms.

 

What are your most vivid memories from your time here?

 

My strongest memories are from the many volunteering initiatives which really underlined the firm’s ethos. Of course, it’s vital that the firm is profitable but it’s also really important that this is balanced by using some of its considerable resources to support the vulnerable in society. 

 

This, I’m pleased to say, it has always done. I noticed this especially when, as the Senior London Partner, I was involved in and also led many volunteering activities, helping the firm to lead the way as a ‘good corporate citizen’.

 

One of my proudest moments was when Prince, now King Charles, appointed me as his London Ambassador for volunteering in 2009. It was as a result of my organising the Business in the Community’s Give and Gain Day. All our offices took part, and there were 3,000 plus employees from around 300 companies across the country participating in a day of volunteering, helping others in many different ways.

 

What is your approach to leadership?

 

As a leader, you need to step back and think through the pros and the cons of the decision that’s being made and who might be affected by it. I also strongly believe that when working through an issue, it’s important to be humble, keep an open mind and listen to other people's opinions. Lawyers like to think they have all the answers, but often the best solution is reached by consulting with others.

 

What advice would you give partners approaching retirement and seeking non-executive directorship roles?

 

When submitting a CV, don’t just look at roles within your particular specialism. Include any experience that will show the broader value that you’ll bring, including interpersonal and organisational skills.

 

The first NED appointment is always the trickiest as there will be dozens of people with non-executive experience. It may be best to first apply for pro bono roles, for example, at non-profit organisations, charities, etc., in order to build your non-executive CV. Also, contact a number of head-hunters and consider subscribing to major head-hunters’ notification lists.

 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

 

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been given any! However, it’s important to wipe out thoughts like, “Oh I shouldn’t really be here”, or, “I shouldn’t really be doing this”.

 

As Senior London Partner, I invited a number of black students from a comprehensive school in East London to experience life at a City law firm. I told them I’d been to a London comprehensive school too, and here I was, head of the London office. I wanted to show them what they could achieve and offered them work experience in different areas of the firm.

 

We don’t all start from an equal place, so it’s about being focused and deciding on what you want in life, accessing any additional resources needed to help you, then really going for it. There will be difficulties along the way so you need a degree of determination and self-confidence. And, of course, you need to embrace the opportunities you’re given.

 

If you would like to add Anthony Arter to your network, you can connect with him via LinkedIn.