Hermes to advise BBC pension fund

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The Independent Online

The BBC's £7.5bn pension scheme is set to become an increasingly high-profile member of the shareholder activist movement with the appointment of a specialist adviser to help it make corporate governance decisions.

The scheme has appointed Hermes Equity Ownership Services, a division of Hermes Pensions Management, the fund manager owned by the BT Pension Scheme, to advise it on its share ownership responsibilities. The adviser will counsel the BBC's pension scheme trustees on how to vote at company meetings and help the fund take a much more active role in the running of companies in which it holds stakes.

Colin Melvin, the managing director of Hermes EOS, said supporters of shareholder activism were motivated as much by economic factors as the desire to be good corporate citizens. "Shareholders, if they act responsibly and ethically in their conversations and engagement with companies, are likely to increase the value of those companies," Mr Melvin said.

While many US pension funds have appointed similar advisers to Hermes, the majority of British pension schemes have delegated such work to the investment managers running their funds.

Hermes EOS, the UK's largest pension scheme adviser of this type, has similar mandates from just two other large clients, the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme and ABP, the Dutch pension fund.

A spokesman for the BBC said it had reviewed the work of its scheme fund managers before appointing Hermes. He said: "We decided to appoint one organisation to take on the responsibility of voting and engagement."

Pension schemes, which own around 25 per cent of the shares of Britain's largest companies, have come under increasing pressure to take a more active role in the affairs of companies in which they hold stakes.