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Zurich’s Churchill to head UK’s protection fund

UK – The government has named Zurich Financial Services’ former UK insurance chief Lawrence Churchill as chairman of the Pension Protection Fund.

Pension minister Andrew Smith made the announcement at the annual conference of the National Association of Pension Funds in Glasgow this afternoon.

"As you know Lawrence is a very respected figure in the financial services industry," Smith said. "His leadership and the experience he brings will help get the protection fund off to a good start."

Churchill, 58, joined Zurich in 2002 as chief executive of its UK, Irish and international life businesses. He was formerly chairman and managing director of Unum Ltd. Before that he was CEO of NatWest Life. He stepped down from his role at Zurich on May 6.

Calling the fund "a major social reform" the minister said the fund had been set up to bolster up confidence in pensions.

If a sponsoring employer goes bust and the pension fund is underfunded, through the protection fund pensions already in payment would continue to be paid in full, up to a prudential cap, Smith explained. "Pensions for those yet to retire will be paid at 90%."

“I know that there are those who have questioned the finer detail of how the Fund will work and we have listened carefully.”

Keeping costs down, he said, was "important" but "at the same time to ensure that cover is good enough to provide members with a meaningful pension".

He said the government was "all too aware" of the plight of the workers whose companies have gone under before the PPF comes into being.

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