Trustee profiles

Tony Ashford >>

Current role

Independent Chairman of the Unilever UK Pension Fund. Also Chairman of the HSBC UK Pension Trust and Deputy Chairman of AIB UK.

Board service

6 months

Background

When I stopped my role as a full time executive I wanted to continue being active in financial services. I looked for roles where I could add value and which would be a challenge for me.

Future

Dealing with the raft of new regulations impacting pension schemes.

By the way...

As a passionate but poor golfer, I find that the game provides a complete distraction from my work – and absolute frustration in equal measure!

Bill Hodgson >>

What do you do?

I have been a trade union convenor for nearly 10 years. My day job consists of representing people in disciplinaries and grievances as well as negotiating with the Company over restructurings, policies and procedures and pay, among other issues. I do this both locally at my site, Port Sunlight R&D, and also nationally in various forums.

How long have you been a Trustee?

2 years. I was elected in 2012, shortly after the changes to the Fund were completed.

What first made you interested in becoming a Trustee?

I think I was like most other people and didn’t really pay much attention to my pension, just assuming it would be there when I came to need it. It was the changes in 2012, as well as those in 2007, which opened my eyes to its value. For most of us it’s the most valuable asset that we hold – I wanted to be involved, to try and make sure that it stayed that way.

What does your Trustee work involve?

When I joined the Board I confess to having little knowledge of what to expect. The sheer number and complexity of the tasks which are the Trustees’ responsibility came as quite a shock, from investment strategies to good governance and everything in between. My particular area is ensuring that benefits are paid to members as and when they are due. This is the responsibility of the Operations and Benefits Committee, which I chair, and this has given me great insights into the challenges of our particular Fund. Facing us at the moment is the movement to a new payment platform shortly after the payroll provider also changed.

What do you think are the key issues the board will face in the near-future?

Moving towards greater funding self sufficiency – away from relying on the Company – is certainly the challenge the Board has set itself, and I think that’s the right way to go. The Fund is in good shape and I am confident that as our investment strategy shifts its focus to lessen risk we will see more predictability and stability.

Having said that of course, if the financial crash of 2008 has taught us anything, it’s that the world is not a predictable place. It’s vital that we remain nimble enough to respond quickly to changes when we’re faced with them.

Finally – tell us something about you we don’t know.

Well, I am a family man. I live on the Wirral with my partner Lorraine, a teacher, and our three children. I have a season ticket for Tranmere Rovers Football Club, which if nothing else should indicate my support for the underdog! My hobby and passion, from an early age, is astronomy. Given a clear night I can invariably be found in my observatory (shed with a roll off roof) at the bottom of my garden gazing skyward.

David Bloomfield >>

Current role

I am a pensioner elected trustee and serve on both the Operations and Benefits Committee and the Audit and Risk Committee.

Board service

3½ years.

Background

I worked for Unilever for 38 years as an accountant, the last 23 in the Financial Group in London. Increasingly, my role included being the pensions accounting expert within Unilever. As such, I came to know quite a lot about the Fund. That and my interest in my own pension led me to stand for election as a Trustee.

Highlight

I joined the Board in 2011 just as Unilever announced its proposal to close the final salary plan. This meant a steep learning curve in the role – it was quite an introduction.

By the way...

My wife and I spend our time going to concerts, the opera, the theatre and various exhibitions. We have become culture vultures in our retirement.

Daniel Jones >>

What do you do?

I have held various roles in Finance in Unilever over the last 25 years, including 12 years abroad – most recently as the National Finance Director in South Korea. I am currently working in the Global Supply Chain Finance team on factory performance management.

How long have you been a Trustee?

I joined the Board in September 2013.

What first made you interested in becoming a Trustee?

I have been a member of the Fund since I joined Unilever and had always taken for granted that final salary plan would be available to me throughout my career. The events of 2012 changed that and made understanding pensions much more important to me.

At the same time I was working in Corporate Audit and got involved in pension review work which gave me a greater appreciation of the role of the board and the need for good governance of pensions. When the Company asked me to become a Trustee I had no hesitation in wanting to bring my experience to the Board.

What does your Trustee work involve?

As Trustees we meet quarterly for formal Board meetings where we review all of the Fund arrangements covering investment performance, administration issues, communication and risk management.

Much of the work we review in the board is developed in a series of sub committees. I have been Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee since May 2014, given my background working in the finance and audit functions of Unilever. In the committee we are responsible for the risk management process of the Fund, the formal annual Report & Accounts, the internal audit of the Fund to check the procedures we have in place are working, and control of the overall Fund budget.

What do you think are the key issues the board will face in the near-future?

There are a number of issues we will face in the next 2-3 years. Many people will have heard about the 2014 Budget changes announced by George Osborne and we will have to understand the impact of this in detail and what this means for the Fund and our members. Additionally, as we move towards our aim of having no deficit and being a self-sufficient Fund, the investment choices we make will change.

Another key issue in the next few years will be how we bring sustainability measures important to Unilever into our investments – something the pension industry calls ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance issues).

Finally – tell us something about you we don’t know.

Another key issue in the next few years will be how we bring sustainability measures important to Unilever into our investments – something the pension industry calls ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance issues).

Roger Reed >>

Current role

Retired from Unilever in 2009 and am now an HR consultant. Previously worked in Supply chain and HR roles.

Board service

3 years.

Background

I worked in supply chain and HR roles until retiring from Unilever in 2009 – I am now an HR consultant. I was invited to become a Company-appointed Trustee after I left the business. My knowledge of pensions was sufficient to see me through the day job but as I was looking for a new challenge, the subject was interesting and the work worthwhile, I was happy to accept. Knowing several of the Trustees personally helped me settle relatively quickly.

Highlight

The learning curve is quite steep and although the training for new Trustees is very good, you are soon in the thick of complex issues. Taking on the Defined Contribution Committee chairmanship has been challenging, but very stimulating and enjoyable.

By the way...

I am married with three children and in my spare time I am Chairman of Pyrford Cricket Club.

Chris Winn >>

Current Role

I was delighted to be appointed to the Trustee Board on 1 May 2019 as a pensioner elected Trustee and have also been appointed to two of the Board’s sub-committees: Defined Contributions and Appeals and Discretions. I look forward to serving on both.

Ad hoc working parties also form an important part of the Board’s structure and I am pleased to have been appointed to the working party for Member Engagement. I feel that many people are nervous about, or even avoid, making decisions about pensions – one of the most important financial decisions of their lives – because of the perceived complexity. I am looking forward to making a contribution towards how we as a Trustee Board can help our members to feel more confident in their decision making.

Background

My Unilever career spanned three decades over a number of different functions, including PA to a main Board Member, HR and latterly IT. Although not from a financial background and facing a steep learning curve, I fully realise the importance of the role and, with the support of the fantastic financial and fiduciary knowledge of my colleagues and some great training, hope soon to make a useful contribution to the Board, albeit from a different perspective.

By the way:

My life is crazily busy; I have many interests and not enough time for them all. I love photography, would like to explore astronomy and also to read all the books I order for when I have time. I chair a voluntary committee and have a keen interest in current affairs. I love to keep up with friends and relatives. I love to travel and also several weeks of the year I can be found on a narrowboat, normally in the Midlands/North of England, chugging along the canals – or sometimes even braving the tidal river Trent!

Although a (south) Londoner born and bred and still love London, almost two years ago I moved to the beautiful Elham valley, close to the Kent coast. I still have many challenges to attend to in the house (unplanned as well as planned!), but I adore living here.

Matthew Powell >>

Current role

My current role in Unilever is Corporate Audit Director – Information Technology. As part of the Corporate Audit team, our role is to provide reassurance that key risks are understood and being effectively managed. I lead the team looking at IT related risks.

Background

I joined Unilever in January 2001, and have held a variety of roles mainly within the IT organisation. These roles have seen me based out of a variety of locations across the UK, moving back to Port Sunlight for the second time in 2014.

I was pleased to be appointed to the Trustee Board as I have always recognised the importance of pensions, but changes to the Fund and rules regarding pensions over the last ten years have made me think much more deeply about how the changes will affect me, other Fund members and our families. My experience and interests both in and outside of work have given me good exposure to a range of topics relevant to being a Fund Trustee, in particular in the areas of general financial awareness, understanding and challenging complex issues, working with advisory groups, negotiation and governance.

Finally – tell us something about you we don’t know.

Outside of work I live in Chester and have two daughters and two step daughters. In my spare time I enjoy most things outdoors as well as playing the piano and some travel!

Charles Nichols >>

Current role

I recently retired from Unilever after 31 years’ service, after working in a variety of roles, most recently as Group Controller.

As well as being a Trustee, I’m a Board Member of the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity Markets Standards Board (FMSB), where I chair the Nominations Committee. I also run a small livestock farm in Berkshire.

Board service

I joined the Board of Trustees in January 2016, and took over the chairmanship of the Investment and Funding Committee in June of the same year.

Background

As both Unilever’s Treasurer and Group Controller, I've been heavily involved with its pension arrangements over recent years. It’s an area of increasing complexity and challenge. The role of pension fund trustee has never been more interesting, or more important.

Highlight

As a deferred pensioner myself, my first thought on seeing the Board in action was one of gratitude - that my own pension is in the hands of such a professional, knowledgeable and committed team.

Future

The key challenge for the Board will be to manage risk in an appropriate way as the Fund becomes more mature, against the background of a volatile and uncertain world.

By the way

Despite my background in finance, my main passions are to be found in the great outdoors – fishing, shooting, scuba diving, walking, skiing and latterly farming!

Stuart Hawthorn >>

Current role

My current role is Corporate Supply Chain Finance Director, partnering the Divisional SC teams. I started my finance career in Unilever back in 1997 and have held various managerial roles across the business since then.

How long have you been a Trustee?

I joined the Trustee Board on 7 May 2018.

What first made you interested in becoming a Trustee?

As a member of the Unilever pension fund for the last 20 years, I’m looking forward to joining the Trustee board and playing my part in safe-guarding the fund for the future.

By the way

Outside of work, I am married to my wife Clare and we have 2 young girls, Emily and Sophie. In any remaining free time, I get my energy from being outside, be it walking in mountains to spending the day in the garden.

Neil Bertram >>

What is your current job/occupation?

Most recently a Finance Director, Technology at Barclays for 12 years. I recently embarked on a career change to build a portfolio career focussing on non-executive directorships and consultancy roles across different sectors.

How long have you been a Trustee?

I joined the Board on 1 May 2018.

What first interested you about the Trustee role?

Since a young age I have been interested in the stock market including different investment instruments. As I have gained a few grey hairs my interests in Pension Funds has significantly increased. When I researched the Trustee role I was attracted to the diverse range of subjects and complexity of being a custodian of the Pension Fund. The opportunity to work with a diverse range of people, from actuaries, lawyers, trustees, company directors and members, provides a broad range of perspectives which is very appealing.

As a member of the Trustee board what are the key pension issues you are looking to concentrate on?

Key areas of focus will be the management of risks on the Fund, and keeping up to date on the ever changing pension regulations and understanding how they impact our members. Also how the Trustees integrate sustainability measures into the fund’s investment strategy will be key over the next few years.

Away from work / Trustee duties?

Away from work I have two young daughters that consume my time. When I do manage to "escape" my time revolves around sport, whether playing golf or going out on the road bike, or watching Manchester City (I own 50% of a season ticket).

Clare Cavana >>

What is your current job/occupation?

I am Senior Manager in the Global Media Relations Team and the areas I cover include research and development, innovation, the Beauty & Personal Care division and the Company’s financial calendar and wider business activities.

How long have you been a Trustee?

I joined the Board on 10 September 2018.

What first interested you about the Trustee role?

I have 10 years' experience in a broad range of communications – for both consumers and customers as well as corporate audiences. I hope to use my expertise whilst on the Board and get involved in our approach to promoting all the benefits the Fund can provide to its members.