86% of people do not want retirement savings funding Russia, say campaigners

Some 86% of people believe UK pensions should not be invested in Russia, a survey carried out for a campaign group has found.

The survey of 2,000 people across the UK was carried out for Make My Money Matter, an organisation co-founded by filmmaker Richard Curtis.

The group is urging UK pension schemes to stop investing in Russia, and to divest from their Russian investments as soon as possible.

The Church of England Pensions Board recently instructed managers to exit direct holdings in Russian companies.

Asset manager abrdn – formed from the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management – has already cut its exposure to Russia in recent weeks and declared it uninvestable for the foreseeable future.

Hedge fund Man Group also previously said it had sold out nearly completely from Russia and Ukraine before Christmas on fears over rising tensions and sanctions.

And Helen Dean, CEO of pension provider Nest said this week: “In view of the situation in Ukraine, we’ll be removing all our investment in Russian government bonds and Russian companies as soon as possible.”

The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Advisory Board in England and Wales posted a statement on its website on Monday advising any LGPS funds who are not already doing so to consider the implications for their investment portfolios in the light of events in Ukraine.

Earlier this week the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) said schemes are currently assessing the levels of any direct or indirect holdings they have in their investment portfolios, taking action to comply with the UK sanctions and considering whether to enact any exclusion policies they have in place.

The PLSA, which represents schemes collectively providing retirement incomes to more than 30 million UK savers, said UK pension schemes will typically have an extremely low level of direct investment in Russia.

Make My Money Matter has set up a template on its website which pension holders can use to ask schemes to cut their exposure to Russia.

Tony Burdon, chief executive at Make My Money Matter, said: “We’re calling on all pension providers to divest from their Russian investment as soon as possible. In doing so, the financial sector can display moral leadership, sound financial management and help protect the savings of UK pension holders.”

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has added information to its website to keep consumers updated at www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/topics-and-issues/ukraine-crisis.

Its director general, Hannah Gurga, said on the website: “We stand united with the people of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, and our thoughts are with them and their families.

“Our members fully support sanctions imposed by the UK Government, and are committed to enforcing their implementation.”

The ABI’s website says: “Customers may understandably be concerned about potential exposure to Russia. Pension providers are currently reviewing their holdings, with several stopping trading or divesting.

“Over 85% of those saving into a workplace pension are invested in the default fund. These funds are invested in a cross-section of the economy, in multiple sectors in both the UK and abroad. If you are concerned about your investments, then talk to your provider, but do not rush into any financial decisions.”

Pensions giant Aviva said its direct exposure to Russia is negligible.

It said it will be exiting from Russian investments as soon as it can and will work with its clients on any investment changes they wish to make.

Pensions are designed to be a medium to long-term investment, it added.

Stock markets can experience periods of volatility but if pension customers have any questions or concerns, Aviva said it recommends seeking financial advice before making any changes.