Bill Galvin , stop whingeing to the FT and come down here!

Bill Galvin

Bill Galvin is a very nice man

Bill Galvin would be well-advised not to snipe at social media for peddling misconceptions about the University Superannuation Scheme.

bill kill

Dennis Leech, Professor of Economics at Warwick concludes a recent article with the question

will this independent group be subject to the normal modalities of academic enquiry and discourse? It is after all the function of academia to find out the truth by open, free debate. That is what universities are for.

He is not speaking of the USS itself, but of the proposed group of experts proposed to oversee the valuations of the scheme. Personally, I find no need for such a group, like Dennis, I see the most constructive conversations about the future of the USS and the pensions of lecturers and professors in the open and free debate of social media.

Bill’s USS enjoy a privileged position in the current dispute

Just because Bill isn’t in the front line, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be involved. I’d say he and his colleagues are failing the Frank Field Test.


The Frank Field Test

USS , like BSPS, has chosen not to use social media to engage its membership in its issues. Now Bill Galvin, its CEO has complained to the Financial Times.

“We have seen material which suggests that this valuation has been done on the basis of [all university] employers going insolvent. This is palpably untrue.”

Come off it Bill – this sounds pompous – it doesn’t sound like you at all.

And I have to ask you Bill why you think the FT is a better soapbox than twitter?

I didn’t see Jesus, when he preached, avoiding social media, he went to the nearest boat, hill or street and broadcast his views to the masses; much to the annoyance of the priests who had till then had a monopoly on teaching.

I am not likening the FT to the Pharisees, (the FT gets social media), but I think Bill would be minded to get out of their pulpit and come and talk to the people who pay his wages.

And quite some wages

The issue created by having a very big salary is akin to that of the Selfish Giant, who – finding himself in possession of a fine garden, put a big fence around it – to keep out the plebs. Bill’s behavior could be interpreted in that way.

It is doubly unfortunate that while I know Bill to be one of the most down to earth of people, the sponsors of his scheme, the Universities, are run by people who have quite lost the confidence of his members and indeed the University’s customers.

The Frank Field Test establishes whether  the management and Trustees of a pension scheme are in the same country as its membership. I suspect that Bill has been lumped in with the Vice Chancellors as an overpaid elitist, probably abusing his expense account and certainly avoiding open debate.

None of which is fair of the man.

Social media is not alternative truth!

Although it’s possible to find irresponsible comment on social media, and though much that is written is unintentionally wrong, social media has a habit of ironing out its creases in time. The threads about USS on twitter have shown some of the most intelligent debate on pensions I have ever read – not least because they are informed by the opinion of brilliant people (like Dennis Leech).

Bill can take many isolated instances of people getting wrong and use them to justify his negative views on social media, but these are exceptions – to use his language “outliers”.

Instead of criticising social media, he should be studying it – as should the Pensions Regulator, there is wisdom in the crowd and it will show itself over time. Social media cannot be pushed around as conventional media can, there are no Robert Maxwells or Rupert Murdoch’s controlling the social media agenda,

Instead there is a groundswell of informed opinion that surfaces from time – the still small voice of calm. Shakespeare wrote for the pit as well as the galleries and without the diversity of the Elizabethan theatre audience, his plays would be the less. Bill cannot confine himself to the Financial Times, he should come down off his high horse and mix it with the groundlings!

He should be feeding the 5000, not just the elite readership of the FT.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions, USS and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Bill Galvin , stop whingeing to the FT and come down here!

  1. Richard Bryan says:

    This is not really about this post, but maybe something that Mr Galvin might like to think about in his spare time, and also something that might interest you, Henry, and I think it timely since changes to USS are in the news. This comes from personal contacts.
    That is, the targeting of deferred members by ‘advisors’ trying to encourage them to transfer out of USS to whatever scheme they are trying to flog. This applies particularly to those no longer in the UK, who, like most academics, put their cvs on their website, linkedin, or whereever. If there’s a UK University on the cv, then there’s a pretty good chance that they’re a deferred member of the USS, so that gives an immediate lead to the ‘introducers’ (or whatever they might be called), who can leverage an initial call by feigning apparent knowledge of the target’s pension. I’m sure that you can understand the rest of the process. Of course, my advice is to use the ‘foxtrot oscar’ response, but apparently they are persistent.
    So perhaps it would be timely for the USS to inform all deferred members that any changes to the USS will not affect existing accrued pensions?

  2. Eugen Neagu says:

    The USS problem is a funding problem and who is going to pay for it.

    On one side students won’t like to pay more fees, on the other side no employee would like to increase their comtributions by 11%.

    The scheme assets are invested corectly 60% in growth assets and 40% in bonds like assets. No much wriggle room to play with the asset allocation.

  3. Saul Jacka says:

    @Eugen Neagu
    Some of us, with some significant statistical knowledge strongly disagree that this is a funding problem. We think that the valuation basis is (increasingly) absurd and is, in some sense, designed to return a substantial deficit.
    Asset returns of CPI -0.53% dropping to -1.3% over 10 years? That sounds mad to me. Certainly if any IFA suggested that to me as even a pessimistic target I’d fire them on the spot.

  4. Martin Evans says:

    Are transfers out of USS the next British steel scandal waiting to happen.

  5. Kevin Wesbroom says:

    Henry – I’ve said before this is Plowman not Frozen Pensions. USS is not a frozen plan. And FWIW I think you are being pompous in return about Bills statement. Some of the more ludicrous statements about the valuation- it assumes all employers go bust, it assumes people live to 147 – are on social media rather than official positions. His else would you expect him to reply to them?

  6. henry tapper says:

    I’m a pompous git alright!

  7. Put them all in the magic CDC – and then everyone can stop worrying 🙂

Leave a Reply