Our Team

Pensions Advisory and Trustee Services

We are our people and our team are here to deliver you an outstanding professional service.

Sam Ashraf – Director

Sam is an experienced professional independent trustee and corporate actuary. Known for her strategic solution-based approach for managing challenging situations facing pension schemes and sponsors to arrive at sensible and improved outcomes for all parties.

Sam is delighted in founding Align Pensions with Darren Howarth and Bhavna Kumar. Align Pensions will bring quality trusteeship and advice to all types of pension schemes.

Sam has substantial experience in professional trusteeship including chairing trustee boards and acting as sole trustee.

Her experience includes negotiating balanced funding solutions, sponsors undertaking restructuring including insolvency (including compromise solutions), journey planning along with building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders. She also has substantial experience of regulatory actions including moral hazard cases and other investigatory powers. Her recent activity includes buyouts including schemes with property charges.

As a corporate focused actuary, Sam has advised companies on pension accounting, liability management projects, funding negotiations and M&A pensions activity including mergers of pension schemes.

Sam’s experience covers both DB and DC pension schemes including open and closed schemes covering schemes assets all the way to £1BN. Client base has included schemes with UK, Belgium, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese and US parent companies. Sam have also undertaken several governance projects for DB and DC schemes.

Darren Howarth – Director

Darren is a highly regarded pensions actuary and professional trustee with 24 years experience in the pensions industry.

Since graduating from UMIST in 1995 with an honours degree in Mathematics and Management Sciences, he has worked for 20-20 Trustees as a professional Trustee and at a small number of consultancies as a Scheme Actuary. During his time at Buck Consultants, he was the Head of the Manchester office and a Trustee of the Buck Consultants Pension Scheme as well as a Scheme Actuary.

Darren qualified as a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in 2002 and has held a Scheme Actuary certificate since 2003. 

Darren has a particular expertise in (advising / acting as a Trustee for) small to mid-sized schemes and finding pragmatic solutions to issues in a cost-effective manner. Darren also has extensive experience of providing investment consulting advice to clients and advising trust based DC schemes, including schemes in the process of winding up.

During his career, Darren has advised a number of well known companies including East Midlands International Airport, Euler Hermes and Turtle Wax.

Recently, Darren advised the legal team representing the representative members in the Lloyds Banking Group GMP equalisation case.

Darren is well respected by his clients, who appreciate his enthusiastic and friendly manner, and his ability to present and explain complex issues in a clear and understandable way.

Bhavna Kumar – Director

Bhavna is a highly experienced qualified pensions actuary and trustee, who is focused on

  • collaborative but robust communication and negotiation;
  • strong governance;
  • simplifying the complex for all audiences and;
  • driving cost efficiencies and adding value.

Bhavna has extensive experience of all aspects of trust based defined benefit and defined contribution pension arrangements, and has helped a number of her clients reach viable and mutually acceptable funding and investment strategies.  Bhavna’s focus has been on small to mid-range schemes where it is of crucial importance that solutions are cost effective and pragmatic.

Her career began as an actuarial trainee in 1999, and has encompassed roles at Aon, Mercer and 20-20 Trustees.  Bhavna splits her time between an advisory role and independent trusteeship, allowing her to understand the issues from both sides of the discussion and ensuring that her clients receive a best in class service.