£4.9bn assets pension fund struggles to offload holdings in Russia

County Hall in Northallerton.

Managers of a pension fund run for North Yorkshire and York’s biggest employers as well as for a large number of staff working for a spectrum of private firms are struggling to offload indirect holdings in Russia, it has emerged.

A meeting of the North Yorkshire Pension Fund Committee heard it had some £4.9bn of assets at the end of the year and liabilities of only £3.8bn, leaving a surplus of over £1bn.

Members were told while the pension fund was “very healthy”, with a 129 per cent funding level, about 0.1 per cent of the fund related to Russian “indirect holdings through our managers”.

Council officers told the meeting: “We are working with those pension fund managers and our advisors on the most appropriate course of action to take, but options are quite limited at the moment.

“One issue at the moment is that the Russian stock exchange is actually closed at the moment.”

The meeting also saw the pension fund, whose members range from teachers to security guards, heralded for efforts to ensure its investments help to tackle climate change.

Council officers said while investing in commodities such as oil, energy and metals, during the current period of high inflation was profitable, over the long-term such investments would not be pursued.

They said while the North Yorkshire Pension Fund has its own responsible investment policy that was reviewed annually, the authority had been working with one of its fund managers Border to Coast, one of the UK’s largest pension pools, on the development of its climate change policies.

York councillor Christian Vassie welcomed the policy change, saying the pension fund clearly recognised the role that such pension funds had in the transition to a low carbon economy in the future.

He said while it was vital the fund continued to make money for its members, he was hopeful North Yorkshire Pension Fund would press home the importance of climate change in investment decisions.

Coun Vassie said balancing responsibilities to ensure that people have a secure pension when they retire while ensuring that we all have somewhere to retire to.

He added: “This pension fund has a clear leadership role to move Border to Coast forward. There are a number of instances where they are showing less commitment than some would like.”