Pensions Archive Trust holds its 2024 AGM

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Events

PAT held its 2024 Annual General Meeting on 7 February 2024 at the London Metropolitan Archives. The directors and other members of the company were joined by a number of PAT friends and supporters, and colleagues from the LMA who work on the PAT collections.

Sadly, the Chair, Jeff Highfield, was not able to join the meeting in person, as he’d come down with Covid, but was able to participate using Zoom. Dame Jane Newell, PAT’s President, welcomed everyone to the meeting, and asked Jeff to present his report on PAT’s activities over the past year.

Jeff reported:

Thank you, Dame Jane, for your welcome, and could I say on behalf of all the members of the Archive Trust, it’s a privilege to have you as our President, and to know that you are so active in promoting and supporting the Trust.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that I’ve managed to pick up Covid so can’t be with you in person this afternoon, and I have to thank my fellow trustees, Grant Lore in particular, for the unexpected additional work they’ve had to pick up because of my enforced absence, and thanks too to Wendy Hawke of the LMA for setting up the technology that at least allows me to share a few opening remarks with you.

Anyway, it’s a great pleasure to see you all to the Pensions Archive Trust AGM this afternoon. I’d like firstly to thank our colleagues at the London Metropolitan Archive for allowing us to use their facilities today, and for preparing a small display of archival materials for us to enjoy later.

As everyone knows by now, I’m sure, PAT is a charity and relies entirely on the generous donations of our funders and sponsors, so it’s only right and proper that I thank on behalf of PAT the organisations that have sponsored us during the past year, the Association of Consulting Actuaries, BP Pension Trustees, The Occupational Pensions Defence Union, The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, The Pensions Research Accountants Group, The Pensions Management Institute who have reinvigorated their partnership with us this year, both from a funding perspective and also in order to continue to make deposits of archival material with us; and finally a special thank you Barnett Waddingham who we welcome as new funders of the Trust this year; and thanks also to a number of individuals who made personal donations to the Trust.

In the year since I had the honour of taking over as chair of the Trust, I’ve had one major objective, to make the Trust more visible to the pensions community. The other trustees and I agreed this was the first step to expanding the work we do, to raising more funds, to obtaining more archival material, to involving more people in our work. The major example of trying to increase our visibility was our appearance at the PLSA Centenary conference in Manchester in October, and I really can’t thank the PLSA enough for their generosity and unstinting support in making that possible, in particular Chief Executive Julian Mund, former Chief Executives Richard Butcher, Mark Cooke and Head of Marketing & Communications Edward Bogira. With their help we were able to reach several hundred pensions professionals during the event. Some of them had “vaguely” heard of us, many had never heard of us at all. The best reaction I got was “I never knew the Archive Trust existed, but thank goodness you do, it’s so important that pensions history is preserved”.

The PLSA of course are long-term supporters of PAT, we hold their archive here at the LMA, and were delighted to be able to contribute to the centenary celebrations and the centenary book they published. That’s the “royal we” – our major contribution was the history of the last 100 years of pensions, written by Grant Lore (and edited by Jane Marshall) so a big thank you to both of them. The book’s still available electronically on the PLSA website, by the way, if you haven’t seen it before.

Can I mention one other way in which we try to keep PAT’s name in the public eye, which is the articles on pensions history written by Jane Marshall, which are published in every edition of Pensions Age magazine, so thanks again to Jane, and to Pensions Age for giving us that space. If you don’t already, please follow the Archive Trust on LinkedIn, we post a link to the articles every time one is published.

I’d also like to thank Paul Newman KC for inviting me to be interviewed for an episode of his “Talking Pensions” podcast last October about the work of the Trust, I see Paul is here today, and I thoroughly recommend the whole series of his podcasts, available at pensionsbarrister.com.

Finally, in terms of visibility, I should mention that we’re just in the final stages of redesigning and modernising our website, to make our archives more accessible to academics and historians, as well as to current pensions practitioners, so they can research current pensions issues in the light of what worked (or didn’t work) in the past. We also want to increase our profile with scheme trustees and advisers so they think of PAT when working out what to do with their own archives, especially if the scheme is winding up. The new website is a significant financial investment for the Trust, so of course, we also want the website to make it easier for people and corporations to donate money.

I said we also wanted to get more people involved in the work of the Trust, because it was quite clear that in the past, most of the workload fell on a very small number of trustees. One thing we’ve done (again the royal we, it was Chris Bedford’s idea and it’s been mostly Grant’s work) is to revive the Advisory Group, which consists of people who want to support and assist the Trust, but not as formal trustees. So we’re pleased to welcome Ian Fairweather of Willis Towers Watson, Daniel Barlow of Law Debenture Pension Trust, Alistair Knowles of Cartwright Consulting, Roger Mattingly of the Independent Governance Group, Chris Clifton also of the IGG, Martin Kellaway of OPDU, and finally Kevin Legrand, former president of the SPP and the PMI. All of them have agreed to join the Advisory Group which will be providing valuable advice and strategic direction to the Trust, initially around fund-raising.

As far as the board of trustees is concerned, we’re delighted (subject of course to the decisions at the AGM itself) to welcome Alkesh Shah and Gary Yeaman to the board, and I know their relative youth, undoubted energy and extensive contacts in the pensions industry will prove invaluable to the Trust.

Sadly, two of our loyal and long-standing trustees have decided the time has come to stand down. Chris Bedford and David Robertson have been trustees for 12 and 10 years respectively, and have contributed massively to our success to date. However, the demands in David’s case of his work at the Association of Consulting Actuaries, and in Chris’s case, the demands of a busy life in retirement, mean they are now standing down as trustees. They both remain members of the Trust, I’m glad to say, so we won’t lose access to their knowledge and experience entirely. Thank you both for your service to PAT.

Thanks to our colleagues at the LMA, the work of receiving archive material and collections has continued, some of the highlights being the archives of the Greater London Pensioners’ Association, a collection of periodicals and publications from Aries, and the very significant deposit of material from the Former Registered Dockworkers’ scheme. The work involved in the organisation of this material, its cataloguing and conservation to the highest professional archiving standards, is of course time-consuming and expensive, and is funded by our sharing the cost of an intern archivist with the LMA.

So, in the coming months, we look forward to launching our new website, to receiving new deposits of archive material from a variety of sources, and to extending our reach among pension schemes and their advisors. It’s a cliché to say that pensions scheme, DB schemes anyway, have reached a crucial juncture in their history, but we at PAT believe that there is now a real and present risk that the disappearance of pension schemes through wind-up, buy-out, consolidation and so on, could lead to the loss of their documentary and material history. We don’t want that to happen, we want to preserve it for the benefit of academics, historians and future pensions professionals, and I guess you’re all here because you want it to be preserved too. So, thanks for your support, if you (or your organisation) are able to extend that support, either with your time or your organisation’s money, come and talk to us after the formal AGM.

PAT’s Company Secretary, Grant Lore, swiftly ran through the formal business of the AGM, and everyone was then able to visit a display of a selection of archive material