UK - The £10.9bn (€13.2bn) British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme is looking for a new chairman of its investment sub-committee to replace former Watson Wyatt partner Nick Watts, who has left "by mutual consent".

The change follows a 9.5% decline in the value of scheme assets over the year to the end of March 2008.

It's also emerged the fund has terminated a combined £819m of equity mandates with Barclays Global Investors and Nordea, with assets shifted into absolute return mandates. It also cut equity briefs with Goldman Sachs and AllianceBernstein to go into cash. These changes occurred before the worst of the recent global financial crisis.

"Nick Watts, who served as the chairman of the Investment sub-Committee, resigned as a trustee by mutual consent with effect from September 6 2008," the fund said on its website. "The trustees would like to record their appreciation of Nick for his long association with the Scheme as investment consultant, trustee and investment committee chairman and to thank him for the significant contribution he has made to the Scheme's affairs over many years."

Calls and emails to BCSSS chief executive Geoff Mellor were not returned by press time. Watts, the former European head of investment consulting at Watson Wyatt, retired from that firm some two years ago.

"We are now in the process of identifying a replacement trustee," the scheme added. The role of investment committee chairman carries a salary of £43,600.

According to the fund's annual report for 2007/2008, the active global equity mandates with Nordea and BGI "were terminated during the year and the assets partly used to increase absolute return mandates, with the balance retained in passively managed equities". BGI and Nordea lost £149m and £670m respectively.

Reductions were also made in equity mandates with Goldman and AllianceBernstein in order to fund the scheme's cash buffer.

The total value of scheme assets fell 9.5%, or £1.1bn, to £10.86bn. It earned £1.4m from a stock-lending programme via its custodian JP Morgan Worldwide Securities Services.