Look into the losses

November 28, 2003

Members of the University Superannuation Scheme (Letters, THES , November 14, 21) will have read in their annual report that the fund has lost some Pounds 30,000 per member since 2000. That's £6 billion among some 200,000 members.

At the peak of the stock-market boom, when by all historical measures shares were wildly overpriced, the USS kept only 11 per cent of members' funds in safe deposits (fixed interest or cash), but 75 per cent in equities. Even in 2001-02, with the equities bubble clearly deflating, these proportions were maintained.

This was presumably informed by "expert" advice - the USS report also notes that £13.5 million was spent last year on investment management expenses.

Ill-advised and inflexible are two descriptions of recent USS investment policy. Their current investment review should call for major changes in policy and personnel.

William J. Spence
Reader in theoretical physics
Queen Mary, University of London

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