Spencer Roach: Workshops and training keep benefits knowledge current

Spencer Roach, benefits manager (retirement) Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia at Cisco Systems, attends quarterly workshops with his organisationā€™s regional benefits consultants, including Towers Watson, to keep up to speed with industry developments and benefits changes.

“We review upcoming legislative changes across the region and identify areas for action,” he says.

Roach’s membership of a working group organised by Towers Watson is also useful. “It typically meets twice a year and includes compensation and benefits managers from the hi-tech sector in London and Thames Valley,” he says.

“Most recently, the meeting was held at Cisco, where we talked about our employee benefits platform, followed by an open forum to discuss any questions on delegates’ minds and, most importantly, lunch.”

Roach is also a member of Pensionweb.com, an online community of pension managers that enables like-minded pensions professionals to share ideas, experiences and best practice.

He says Employee Benefits is an invaluable industry title that helps inform his benefits knowledge, particularly its events, such as Employee Benefits Connect, at which he has presented.

But Roach says his best training session to date was a presentation called The UK economy: How long, how deep?, delivered by Dennis Turner, former chief economist at HSBC.

“It was a really insightful and down-to-earth talk on how the UK got to where it did and what the government can do about it,” he says.

Most of Roach’s training is free of charge, which he says is necessitated by the current economic climate. “That way, my employer only needs to pay travel expenses, but my knowledge remains current,” he says.

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His recommended reading for benefits professionals involved or interested in investment includes Fooled by randomness: The hidden role of chance in life and in the markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, published by Penguin in 2007.

“It’s a really great read about how big a role chance plays in successful investments, and how often success is attributed to skill,” he says.