Liz Airey succeeds Paul Spencer as Chair of Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund

Paul Spencer with Liz Airey

Liz Airey has been appointed as Chair of Trustees of Rolls-Royce’s £13bn pension fund, as Paul Spencer, current chair steps down.

Airey, the Non-Executive chair of Jupiter Fund Management and a former Chair of Trustees of the Unilever UK Pension Scheme, will take up the post at the end of December 2017 upon the retirement of Paul Spencer CBE, who has held the post since 2008.

Airey commented: “I am very excited to be joining the Rolls-Royce Trustee Board and would like to pay tribute to Paul on the terrific job he has done and the strong legacy that he leaves for members.”

Joel Griffin, Head of Pensions at Rolls-Royce, praised Spencer’s “incredible contribution” noting that he leaves the Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund “in an exceptionally strong position, well placed to continue to protect more than 80,000 Rolls-Royce employees and pensioners who rely upon our fund throughout their retirement.”

Spencer took up the post of Chair at a time when the Rolls-Royce Pension Fund had assets of £4.5bn, but a £500m funding deficit. The trustees had recently approved a landmark change in investment strategy away from what was at the time a fairly typical profile of equities and bonds (split 70/30%) to a strategy focused on liability matching instruments together with return seeking investments (split 75/25%).

“Paul’s leadership was pivotal in overseeing the successful implementation and further development of the new liability-matching strategy which was a bold change in direction, but which has since become the benchmark for effective risk management of pension schemes,” explained Griffin. “It was crucial in protecting the funding position of Rolls-Royce’s pensions through the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent period of declining yields which have caused so many pension schemes’ funding positions to suffer.”

Spencer said: “I am enormously proud of the success of Rolls-Royce’s pension strategy. I have thoroughly enjoyed my ten years in role and am delighted to be handing over at a point where we have managed to achieve a very strong surplus of funding while at the same time have been able to deliver improved benefits for members. I am also delighted that I can hand the role of Chair of Trustees to someone with such a strong track record and experience as Liz, whom I know will do an outstanding job.”

The investment performance of the Rolls-Royce Pension Fund was within the top 4% of the UK pension funds when measured over 10, 20 and 30 year periods to 31 March 2016 (as reported on the WM Universe of pension funds). In the 8 years ended 31 March 2016 the Rolls-Royce Pension Fund ranked highest out of a universe of 128 funds, outperforming the weighted average return by 3.8% pa.

In 2016 Rolls-Royce consolidated the main Rolls-Royce Pension Fund with three of its other UK pension schemes together to form the Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund. At the end of September 2017, the Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund had assets of over £13bn and estimated to have a surplus in excess of £1bn measured on the Trustee’s ongoing funding basis. The membership profile as at 31 March 2017 included 12,700 current employees, 22,000 former employees with deferred pensions, and 46,700 pensioners.