Business Big Shot: Ros Altmann

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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The announcement yesterday that the Government would give £2.9 billion to compensate members of collapsed pension schemes was in part due to the efforts of Ros Altmann.

The pensions consultant who spearheaded the Pension Action Group’s campaign for government intervention set up the group after meeting ex-workers from Allied Steel & Wire (ASW), which went bust in 2002.

I thought they were such good people – it was so wrong what was happening to them. They put their whole life savings into something, which suddenly disappeared and it was clear other people could lose out too,” Dr Altmann said yesterday.

Dr Altmann, 51, who has a PhD in pensions from the London School of Economics, worked on a review of institutional investment for the Treasury in 2000. She wrote a report recommending further protection for company pension schemes. The measures were not adopted by the Government. When ASW collapsed she began commenting on the worker’s plight in the media and set up the Pension Action Group, which piled the pressure on the Government.

The group was plagued by infighting but also had huge successes, such as with its “Stripped of our Pensions” campaign, in which victims of collapsed schemes posed naked for the cameras.

“It’s the best thing I will ever come up with,” Dr Altmann said yesterday. “We were trying to decide about protests when this big strapping fellow joked that we should all go and take our clothes off in Parliament. I said I hoped they wouldn’t and then, realising I might have offended him, thought again and decided why not.”

However, despite the campaign’s success, Dr Altmann said yesterday that the group will scale back its lobbying activities. “I would expect that the people who lost out will want their lives back. The Pension Action Group will carry on as a network – but not as a lobby.” Dr Altmann attended Henrietta Barnet secondary school in London and took her first degree at University College London before attending Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on a scholarship.

She worked at Prudential, managing pension funds and institutional assets in 1982, and later ran Chase Manhattan Bank’s international equity investment division in London. She was a director at Rothschild and NatWest but retired to spend more time with her family. She is married with three children.

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