The pension trustees, chaired by Jon Bridger, could explore a deal with an insurer or a superfund amid grave doubts about the CBI’s future, Sky News learns.
City editor @MarkKleinmanSky
Monday 5 June 2023 22:10, UK
Trustees of the CBI’s pension scheme are exploring ways to protect their members’ interests as the fate of Britain’s biggest business lobby group hangs in the balance.
Sky News has learnt that the trustees have held preliminary talks with a number of third parties in recent weeks about a range of potential options ahead of a crunch vote on Tuesday.
City sources said a deal with a specialist insurer or a superfund such as Clara Pensions was a potential outcome under consideration.
Be the first to get Breaking News
Install the Sky News app for free
The CBI refused to comment on a number of details of its pension scheme, with estimates of its total assets ranging between £70m and over £100m.
However, the business group did say that it had an accounting surplus of £5m at the end of 2021.
It was unclear on Monday how many members it had or the scheme’s current funding position.
The scheme’s trustees are chaired by Jon Bridger, a respected independent pension fund guardian.
He could not be reached for comment.
Tuesday’s vote will determine the immediate future of a group which claims to represent 190,000 businesses, and which was incorporated by royal charter in 1965.
The board of the CBI has drafted in lawyers to prepare for a prospective insolvency filing ahead of the crunch vote.
An adverse outcome from a vote at its extraordinary general meeting would leave directors with little choice but to begin a process to wind it up.
The CBI’s survival has been cast into doubt by its handling of a sexual misconduct scandal which put paid to the career of Tony Danker, its director-general, and has left it facing a potentially lengthy police investigation.
Sky News revealed at the weekend that Siemens, the German-based industrial technology giant, and Microsoft were involved in a last-ditch effort to corral support for the organisation.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
A letter from about a dozen companies, including them, said: „At a time when the UK economy is facing strong economic headwinds and anaemia growth, and with a general election expected before the end of next year, it is vital that there is a credible voice representing all sectors and sizes of UK business.
„The CBI can do this. The next 18 months will be vital for the UK and as a group, we feel it is essential that a refocused, effective CBI re-establishes its ties with government and provides the voice that British business needs.”
Ministers and the Labour Party have refused to engage with the CBI since April, with Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, saying there was „no point” interacting with it after it was deserted in droves by leading corporate members such as Aviva and the John Lewis Partnership.
Click to subscribe to The Ian King Business Podcast
A number of members have expressed dissatisfaction with a CBI prospectus published last week, saying it had left them underwhelmed and that it did not contain a credible financial or strategic plan for the group’s future.
To illustrate the apathy felt by many corporate members, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the UK’s biggest accountancy firm, does not plan to register a vote in the ballot.
Tuesday’s EGM will take place on a ‘one member, one vote’ basis, with the CBI requiring a majority of votes cast in favour of a resolution expressing confidence in its ability to continue.
„Without a mandate from you, we have no future,” Rain Newton-Smith, the new director-general, has told members.
A significant number of CBI staff are expected to lose their jobs even if it survives.