The Association of Members of
IBM UK Pension Plans (AMIPP)

This page updated Feb 2012

Elections
 

February 2012  The latest elections are for the Member Nominated Directors of the Pensions Trust.

One of the retiree candidates has asked us to publish his details so that any member who might like to contact him for a discussion before casting their vote can do so:

STEVE GIBBS     02380 251127 07554 811078 steve-gibbs@hotmail.co.uk

This facility is also open to all the other candidates.

 

July 2009  The latest election is for the Pensions Consultative Committee.

 

April 2008

The following was on the home page:

Some of the MND election results are now on the Trust's website Notice Board.  The turnout was disappointing. Despite encouragement and reminders from candidates, AMIPP, and the Trust, less than 1 in 5 of those who could vote did so. (And the deferreds had no vote).  This is less than in the 2005 election.  There is no certainty about why so few voted, but factors likely to have had an effect are:

- the poor design of the election, which alphabetically merged the candidates in the two elections, and required voters to rank across candidates who were not in competition with one another.

- the Trust's ultra-secrecy about what the Trust Board actually does in practice, leading voters to doubt the potential effectiveness of MNDs.

March 2008

The following was on the home page:

You should by now have the ballot papers, if you are eligible to vote. There are 2 retiree MNDs to elect from 30 candidates.  There are 2 employed MNDs to elect from 12 candidates.  Follow the elections link in the column on the left for the latest election news, opinion, and voting suggestions.

Any candidate can contact us with material they would like to go under our elections link. Mike Butcher, Mike Eacott and Brian Marks have expanded on their election statements. Also, anybody can use our Forum to give information or opinion.  Candidates Gavin Wilson, Ian Duncan and Colin Boulain have made election statements on the Forum. Andy Anderson has commented on his candidature. John Roycroft notes that ERS Limited entered "Turning" on his election statement, where he wrote "Turing".

February 2008

There are 2 retiree MNDs to elect from 30 candidates.  There are 2 employed MNDs to elect from 12 candidates. (The retirees have the word "retired" twice in the second line of their page). Candidates in one category are not in competition with the candidates in the other category, although you are (spuriously) asked to rank them as if they were. 

The number of candidates is more than twice the number in the previous election.  This is possibly because many potential candidates were age-barred then.  Also the new payments to MNDs could have had an effect.  (See our Forum for discussion of that.)  Also the sessions providing information to potential candidates were held at an earlier stage than they were in previous elections.

The full list of candidates does not make a compelling case for AMIPP adjusting what it said in Newsletter 36.  We mentioned there the incumbents Gavin Wilson and Mike Butcher, and we suggested you vote for Brian Marks, Bob Maddock, and Mike Eacott.  (Names are given in inverse alphabetical order here.  The ballot paper is in alphabetical order. Those named here are in the retiree election, apart from Gavin who is in the employee election.)

One noteworthy candidate, not known earlier to be a candidate, is David Livermore -  the retiree with the most senior experience in IBM management.  Those who vote will form their own opinion as to whether this is an electoral asset - such Corporate experience would help the MND team gain respect from other trustee-directors and from IBM but voters may feel there is already too much IBM management and ex-IBM management on the Trust Board.

Six of the twelve candidates for employed MNDs are in the M-Plan:  Eric Twigg, Christopher Taylor, Leigh Salkeld, Doug Moody, Geoff Flett, Neil Baker.  The Doug Moody election statement suggests he is Enhanced M-Plan.  The big majority of M-Planners are in the basic M-Plan and it is desirable (for demographic balance) that ordinary M-Plan employees should be represented by an MND. 

Those who retired from the M-Plan have no part in this election. (Unless of course they qualify by being also members of some other IBM UK pensions plan that qualifies them.)

The instructions in the ballot paper say "Postal votes should be returned to the Independent Scrutineer, Electoral Reform Services, The Election Centre, 33 Clarendon Road, London N8 0NW in the pre-paid envelope provided".  However, the pre-paid envelope has a different address on it!  Actually, either address will work. (There is no such person as the Independent Scrutineer.  The title is a bit of gloss invented by ERS Ltd, which judges for itself the quality of its ballot administration.)

 

Mike Eacott expands his election statement:

Information is power. Yes I know it is an old cliché and it may be self-evident to anyone who reads the AMIPP newsletters that IBM holds power over the IBM UK Pensions Trust by ensuring that the Trustee has withheld information that all pension plan holders should have access to.

The Trustee’s record; another old cliché is mushroom management. Within the restrictions of confidentiality imposed by the Trustee I will seek to improve the quality and flow of information from the Trustee to plan members. There may be ways to do this without breaching confidentiality.

 There could be a situation when one of the DB member MNDs will be unable to carry out their duties due to long term illness. It is important that DB MNDs have backup in depth so include in your voting not only Brian Marks and Mike Butcher, but also Bob Maddock and me. 

I believe that employees in the M plan may be in a position to have more immediate access to IBM UK pensions information than some retiree DB members.

I’ve not yet seen the list of candidates. However, my voting will include M plan members as well as by name: Brian Marks, Gavin Wilson, Bob Maddock and Mike Butcher.

Mike Butcher expands his election statement:

Election Statement (career history at the end)

 I am an experienced pension trustee serving both as an independent trustee director of USS (the UK’s second largest pension fund where I also chair their audit committee) and as a member elected director of the IBM pension fund.

 A pension board is very different from the conventional teams we are used to at work. It is much more formalised and many of its processes are determined by law. All pension fund trustee directors are legally bound to put the members’ interests first - but the IBM executives on our board are also paid to maximise profits for IBM. Given company profits can be increased by cutting members’ benefits, there is an inherent conflict. For an MND (member nominated director) arguing for better benefits, it’s sometimes like planning a sales strategy whilst your competitor is in the room with you!

 As an experienced trustee director, I am well versed in how to use the rules about conflict of interest, good governance and pensions law to address such problems.  However, the MNDs can always be outvoted by the IBM executives on the board, so knowing how to get your ideas accepted despite being in a minority is a key skill for an MND.  Direct attacks on the company’s plans tend to fail; a more sophisticated approach works better.

 Last year IBM Pension Trust agreed to set up a governance committee.  I am a founder member and the sole MND representative on it, and believe it is a good step forward. The other members are our two independent directors (one of whom chairs the meeting) and one IBM executive.  Last year, as a member of this committee, I used my experience to help IBM Pensions develop new processes to reduce the risks to our funds and benefits. I believe we can use this Governance Committee as a powerful force for improving the operation of our pension scheme.

 Although the 2006 benefit reductions were decided before I took office, there will be more tough discussions ahead.  If re-elected, I can provide continuity in representing IBM members and help prevent critical decisions escaping rigorous challenge immediately after this election. There is no overlap period to allow new MNDs to observe the last Pension Board meeting with the previous ones still in office. New MNDs will be starting from cold.

 IBM has developed numerous different pension plans over the years, C, I, M, DSL etc. which are all different from each other with varying benefit structures.  Similarly, active, deferred and retired members are likely to have differing concerns. If re-elected, I will use my experience to obtain the best possible pension deals for all of us.

 Career History

1969: Engineering degree (Cambridge University).  Joined GEC as an electrical engineer.

1973: IBM Nottingham - sales, SE, services and management positions. Then Software Group working in UK, La Gaude and Paris with product and marketing roles

2003: Early Retirement (at age 55): Freelance marketing and communications consultant. Member of the audit committee of Loughborough University

2004: Independent director and trustee of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

2006: Member Elected Director of IBM Pension Trust

2007: Chairman of the audit committee of the Universities Superannuation Scheme

 

Brian Marks elaborates (in green) on his election statement:

If you are wondering whether it is worthwhile ranking people you don’t know, please persevere.  Deferreds are disenfranchised, and many members who could vote don’t.  Only 1 in 6 of those involved in our schemes voted in 2005.  This level will not give MNDs the mandate they deserve.  The ‘elections’ link at www.amipp.org.uk gives background.

Candidates are alphabetically listed so those who are doubtful about voting may well not get as far as reading this statement.  However it is an important point.  Ideally there would be a poll conducted later about why members did not vote.  Some will simply not want to be bothered.  Some will be conscientious but not want to rank without more knowledge.  Some will feel MNDs can have no influence anyway.  For those in the last category, the argument needs to be made that their not voting contributes to the case for MNDs being treated as lesser trustees.  For the other categories, something that raised interest levels would help - publishing the numeric results and perhaps the introduction of a period between the election statements and the voting, to allow candidates to comment on the thinking of other candidates.

My OPA activity involves responding to Government consultations about pensions. AMIPP aims to keep you informed.  I have also been able help some individuals. 

There is a natural cynicism that says governments only consult when they have decided what is to happen (in the manner IBM consults with the Employee Forum) but that is not always the case.  Feedback on consultations is seen by influential all-party Parliamentary Committees as well as by the Department of Work and Pensions.

I was not able to stand in the 2005 MED election because of an ageist rule then.

Retaining the ageist rule in 2005 was an IBM decision, not a Trustee decision. That age discrimination has become unlawful since 2005 is something of a red herring - everyone knew in 2005 that age discrimination was undesirable and about to be made unlawful. 

Pensions are not charity.  Recent legislation ensures schemes are adequately funded.  The risks to our members now are further cost cutting (putting M-Plan quality at risk), inflation, uninformed decisions, and unconsidered longevity.

There is a European Court of Justice ruling that says pensions should be viewed as deferred wages.  Pensions in payment increases of less than inflation amount to a pay cut in the pay for work already done.  Volatility in the stock markets will always mean that pension deficits/surpluses on the "final salary" plans will vary much more rapidly than scheme members know about but that is not a concern for members (unless you believe IBM Corporation will be in bankruptcy or bought by another company within a few years) .  If there is a deficit the mechanisms will ensure IBM makes bigger contributions to the fund, if there is a surplus IBM will make less or zero contributions.

Because of the savage degradation of the "final salary" plans into "some fraction of final salary plans", on top of increased employee contributions, the "final salary" plans are no longer the obvious place for IBM to look for cost savings.  The government is sponsoring an occupational money purchase scheme ("Personal Accounts") where the employer contribution is less than the norm for existing money purchase schemes.  There is concern that this will lead to companies levelling down their schemes to the Personal Accounts level.  In the past IBM and the Trust have been quick to make changes that advantage IBM.  (The majority of final salary schemes are now closed to new members but when our Trust did that in 1997 they were pioneering.) So potential reductions to the employer contributions to the M-Plan have to be a concern.

Inflation cannot be changed by the Trustee, but the Trustee's reaction to it can change.  The Trustee has responsibility for proposing increases to pensions in payment and could propose changes to the parameters that determine increases.   (Actual inflation since parameters were last agreed has not dropped below the "cap", demonstrating that the cap is not serving a purpose of reducing the companies exposure to abnormally high inflation, instead it is a cap which steadily reduces pension value.) 

There have been inadequately informed decisions made by the Trustee but the Trustee's very minimal communications with scheme members (such as pages of legal opinion reduced to one sentence, and detail negotiations reduced to a few words of outcome) prevent that being discussed here.

The pensions regulator is concerned about trusts giving inadequate consideration to increases in further longevity for those who reach a beyond average age.  See The Valuation Report for 2006 for our trust.

The Trust Board could do more in providing facts, looking ahead, and analysing its options.  MNDs improve the prospects that it will.

MNDs are also vital in worst-case scenarios.  For example the Thorn Pension Fund is now owned by a subsidiary of a Guernsey based specialist pensions buy-out company.  When this happened, the new owner replaced the chairman and the company trustees, but he could not replace the two MNDs.

Status January 2008

Nominations for the election need to be completed this month.  Candidates are reminded that although original signatures are needed on nominations, you can send ERS the signatures on different copies of page 3 of the submission form.  (And thus perhaps be less dependent on serial use of the Royal Mail.)

Status August 2007

The Trust has presented a plan for MND appointments, and asked for comment.  Newsletter 35 and the updated what the Code implies for our scheme provide background.

Status May 2007

Member Nominated Directors are a good thing for scheme members.  They have a role beyond that of mere trustee-director.  (The Minister who introduced them said they would "give members more influence in the running of their schemes".)  They are empowered by regulation. (The other trustees cannot decide MNDs are unsuitable for certain tasks.)  They are protected by regulation.  (They cannot be dismissed by a majority decision of the directors as a whole.  The Company must make allowances for their trustee work, and must not discriminate against them because of it.)

We had trustee-directors with these regulated roles under a now obsolete "Opt-out" arrangement.  We will have them when appointments are made under new arrangements.  Meanwhile, we do not have MNDs.  (MEDs have no status in the regulations - the term Member Elected Director was an invention of IBM's).

Of course, good things may happen, and bad things may be avoided, whoever the trustees are.  What the appointment of MNDs does is to guarantee some good things and insure against some bad ones.  The appointment of MNDs as soon as possible is entirely a move in the interests of the scheme members.

There is a Code of Practice, issued by the Pensions Regulator and approved by Parliament, for what constitutes good or bad practice in the timely appointment of MNDs.   Here is a discussion of what the Code implies for our scheme.  AMIPP has tried to discuss this with the TrustOur newsletters have warned you about the impending problem.

What remains to be seen now is whether the Trust cares about good or bad practice.  What little it has said suggests that it does not care, and could take a long time to make MND appointments - as much as twice the time the Regulator regards as the maximum reasonable delay.   The Trust&Company, having established themselves as the worst of all comparable schemes for providing protection against inflation, now seem set on establishing themselves as the worst in respecting the Codes of Practice for good governance.

Below here relates to the 2005 and 2002  Elections

 Retrospective view of trusteeship 5 August 2006.

 Information for potential trustee-directors   26 Aug 2005

Below here relates to the 2002 Election

 18 March 2003 Brian Marks expands on his election statement, to the Hursley Retirees AGM.

March 2003 Update Mike O'Sullivan not to continue.

November 2002 update The elections results.

About the law on Elected Trustees

On voting tactics

About the Single Transferable Vote

AMIPP and the election

It is difficult to promote lively discussion of election issues when the electorate does not know the names of the candidates until they are voting.

However, this website will provide information on the candidates as we get it, and the message board is being used to comment on the candidates, and on the usefulness of being part of the trustee election process.

AMIPP recommends that you vote:

Brian Marks       1

Dave Mitchell     2

Mike Eacott       3

Mike O'Sullivan   4

These endorsements were not arrived at democratically, they are just be an opinion based on AMIPP knowledge and principles - this is analogous to when a newspaper comes out with a voting recommendation in a political election.  You will find the reasoning behind them in Newsletter 13 and below.

There were 69 names on the ballot in 1996, and 17 in 1999.  There are 17 people nominated for 2002, 8 of them retirees and 9 employees, so declining interest has been halted.  The names of the 17 will not be formally known until the ballot. There was a period 30 Sept to 11 October when the nominees could find out more about responsibilities and how the trust operates.  In this period any nominee might have withdrawn, for example because they discovered that the procedures of the board would prevent them performing trustee duties as they saw them.  So it is possible for there to be original nominees that you never know about and, in the case of late withdrawal, for there to be candidates on the ballot paper who have withdrawn. 

Any election statements shown were limited to 150 words by the nomination process.  Some of the election statements in the information below were acquired by optical character recognition; flaws may have crept in.

Note Jan 2006 - we have taken the ballot information out of this page because it has become of historical interest only.  If you think there is now a good reason for you to see it, you can always ask through the AMIPP contacts page.

Alan Bowker     Ballot information

John Downe      Ballot information

Robin D'Souza  Ballot information

Mike Eacott      Ballot information

Geoff HendersonBallot information

Lennie Herd       Ballot information

Elaine Kirkwood Ballot information

Frank Littler     Ballot information

Sue Maplesden   Ballot information

Brian Marks      Ballot information

Dave Mitchell    Ballot information

Rhys Morris      Ballot information

Mike O'Sullivan Ballot information

Paul Seaman      Ballot information

Graham Smith    Ballot information

Heather Sneddon Ballot information

Gavin Wilson      Ballot information

The Webmaster is keen to hear more and will generally publish statements, links, etc. that nominees want published. 

A notable absentee from the list above is Don Milton, a current retiree director who is not standing again.  Boardroom confidentiality prevents us knowing with certainty what wisdom and perspective Don has provided to the board, but it seems likely that some of the glimmerings of enlightenment shown by the board in recent years, towards members' interests, have involved him.   AMIPP records its thanks for his efforts.  

The historical and regulatory background to the voting process has been on the website for a while. The document you received describing the election is commented on here.  The actual counting of votes is done by Electoral Reform Ballot Services Limited using the single transferable vote system STV.  There are variations in this scheme, and the actual algorithm is complicated by the requirement to reserve places for two employee trustees and one retiree trustee.  No reason has been given for this lack of symmetry, although at the end of 1996 when the decision was made employee members were a fraction ahead in numbers.  (9388 actives, 7142 pensioners, 5997 deferreds).  The employee proportion is nowadays higher so to that extent the demographics are matched.

Voting Tactics

The ballot paper may not say it, but it is obvious sense to read through all the information before putting any numbers on the form - otherwise you might find the preference you want is one you have already used and this could act against a candidate just because of the alphabetical order of names.  (There is statistically significant evidence from Irish elections of the alphabetical order influencing voting.)

The ballot paper will say something like "The elector is recommended to express preferences until he/she is unable to differentiate between any remaining candidates".   This is not the same as "Stop when you have covered everybody you know anything about who you want to vote for".  You may want to vote against somebody. (Perhaps because of their performance when elected before.)  In that case you should put a number against everybody else on the form, even if you know nothing more than the ballot information about them.  If you prefer a retiree over an employee, or vice-versa, for the position than can be filled by either, it will help if you give your preferred category candidates the lowest numbers you haven't previously committed.

There is no way to rank candidates as equal, except that the ones you give no ranking to are equally disfavoured.

There are actually three elections combined by this ballot.  There is an election for the mandatory two employee directors, an election for the mandatory one retiree director and an election for a fourth director.  If you care about maximising your influence on all three then you should understand the tailoring of the STV process to the IBM case.  Generally speaking, if you have a list with all its high rankings given to employee candidates, or all its high rankings given to retiree candidates, then you (likely) wont have influence on all three elections.  

A note for employees

Although all trustees should act in the interests of all members, there will be a natural tendency for employees to vote for employees, on the basis that they are more likely to bring to any discussion wisdom about how employees think and are affected.  There are however, some risks in not voting for retirees.

A note for deferreds

The trustees and IBM decided that you would be excluded from the process.  The reason given was that "these former employees have no direct link with IBM and can transfer their accrued benefit out of the IBM Pension Plan while it is in deferment."   This is thin reasoning because the retirees don't have a direct link to IBM either - the election is for the board of IBM UK Pensions Trust Ltd, a different company from IBM UK.  And on the second point, employees can also choose to quit the IBM Pension Plan and transfer out their accrued benefit.