Interview with Carol Young, pensions manager at Heineken UK

Carol Young, pensions manager at Heineken UK, developed a passion for investments and governance while working at Arthur Andersen.

She started her career as a management consultant at the now-defunct accountancy firm before moving into its investment practice. She says: “I loved the consulting side, but I decided I wanted to specialise and, in particular, to use my maths background a bit more.”

In 2000, Young joined Mercer’s investment consulting team and, separately, broadened her expertise to include an independent trustee role at a range of employer pension schemes before assuming the in-house pensions role at Heineken UK in 2010.

“I am glad I did the consultancy first, because I think it makes you really sharp,” she says. “As a consultant, you only get to take things so far and then you hand over to someone else.

“Where I really come into my own is as the conduit between technical and non-technical people, and helping them understand the implications of their decisions. In-house, you get far more opportunities to do that, working with the sponsors and trustees and board directors.”

At Heineken UK, Young leads the team responsible for all aspects of the organisation’s UK pension strategy. Heineken has a defined benefit (DB) pension scheme that was closed to future accrual in July 2011 and a group personal pension (GPP) plan that was launched in the same year.

Pensions revamp

Young led the project to close the DB scheme, which has 41,000 members and £2.4 billion worth of assets. She also took responsibility for designing and launching the DC plan, which has earned the Pension Quality Mark (PQM) and currently has a 98% take-up.

“The DC plan is something we are really passionate about, particularly around governance and member engagement,” she says. “We had a long-term communication plan for the launch, which dovetailed with the consultation to close the DB plan. We really wanted staff to initially understand why we were doing what we were doing, but also to appreciate that this was much more sustainable for the business, and still a really valuable proposition for them.”

Young will now focus on communicating and engaging with staff at retirement. “We spent a lot of time thinking about how to get people into a DC scheme, and we have spent some, but less, time thinking about how to help someone get out. It is about keeping up the current level of engagement with employees who are coming in, but also thinking about how to support them better at the other end of that journey.”

Heineken UK introduced auto-enrolment when the DC scheme was launched in 2011, but there is still work to be done before its August 2013 staging date.

Young says: “We adopted as much as we could in advance of the legislation, but we still have some detailed design points to deal with before the staging date. It is not quite the herculean task it would otherwise have been just because we have done it sooner.”

Carol Young will speak in a panel debate on investment strategies at the Employee Benefits Pensions and Workplace Savings Summit on 1 February 2013. She will also chair and speak in the auto-enrolment stream at Employee Benefits Connect on 1 March 2013 and join the judging panel for the Employee Benefits Awards 2013.


How would you describe yourself?
I am really passionate about governance, engagement and investment. I think I bring a lot of drive to my projects, because I like to make sure all the stakeholders are involved. I am good at bringing the right people in to get decisions made, but I am clear about never forgetting that it is ultimately about providing a benefit for the members.

What is your favourite benefit?
I have to say pensions as pensions manager, don’t I? However, I do sit on a reward leadership team. We launched an HR portal in March 2012, which is a new way to get staff to understand all the benefits at Heineken. I got involved with that and brought what we had learned from our pensions project into the broader reward area.

What are your hobbies?
I am a married mum with an 11-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son. I am also a yoga fanatic and play the piano.


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June 2010-present pensions manager, Heineken UK
June 2009-October 2010 independent trustee; pension investment manager, Heineken UK
March 2000-June 2009 senior associate, investment consulting, Mercer
September 1997-March 2000 business analyst, Arthur Andersen