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December 11th, 2014:

The Universities UK pension landscape

It can be helpful to look at the advice the employers’ side is receiving in these negotiations. The key players seem to be,

We can also get a feel for the attitude toward pensions of individual Institutions by looking at their attitude to their  Self Administered Trusts that provide pensions to support staff; ours is PASNAS. There is a list here, and an overall report here. Many are closing or being restricted.

Denis Nicole

Today’s informal Pensions meeting

Ed Zaluska and I are just back from a very helpful meeting with Sarah Pook (Finance Director) and her team. As you can see from the previous post, Southampton made a rather helpful response to the technical consultation and, overall, it seems our University is among those that are most supportive of continuing a good USS scheme.

We don’t have any real information about progress with the on-going negotiations, but it seems that there are now real meaningful discussions between three sets of actuaries about the accuracy of the Trustees’ pessimistic conclusions about deficits in the scheme. UCU and Universities UK have a common interest here, both in maximising investment returns (no de-risking), and in keeping contributions under control (no excessive pessimism).

The employers in Universities UK seem to be taking very different positions about the amount of employer contribution that would be acceptable in the future. Currently, this stands at 16% and I think a number of employers would be able to let it rise to 18%, but few are willing to go further. There seem to be hawks both inside and outside the Russell Group who would like to reduce their contribution to around 10%.

I asked about USS’s perception of its own future role as an organisation. They have recently hired Mel Driffield to take up a new role developing the trustee company’s pensions services; perhaps this suggests a turn away from dedication to running a defined benefit scheme and towards becoming a wider financial services company, exploiting the membership base?

We will be meeting again on 19th January, when we will know the out-turn of the 15th January Joint Negotiating Committee and, if things go badly, we may already be taking action short of a strike.

Best wishes for the holidays,

Denis Nicole