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On Wednesday 8 March, we welcomed USS Trustees and senior USS Executives, including Dame Kate Barker (Chair of the USS Board) and Bill Galvin (Chief Executive Officer), as they held their first major member engagement event in a university in recent years.

Much ground was covered in just a few hours - a summary of which can be found below.

The USS members, the local branch of the UCU and senior leaders of the University all welcomed the commitment of the Directors and Executive of the USS Trustee to listen to the concerns of members of the pension scheme and to meet members in person.

Initial feedback on the day suggested that the session added to understanding and that clear answers to sometimes difficult questions were welcomed.

Thank you to all who attended and contributed to this successful event.

Event summary

The event was split into three sessions, with the opportunity for Q&A after opening remarks on the different topics:

  1. How USS is run for you
  2. How we are managing your money in the current climate
  3. Road to Net Zero

The USS Trustee recognised the impact that the 2022 changes in benefits and contributions had had on members and employers and held out the prospect that the 2023 valuation might provide an opportunity for a favourable review of the benefits and/or levels of contributions.

At the meeting, Durham UCU and the University both referred to their joint statement to work collaboratively to solve the challenges facing USS.

At a time when are all concerned about climate change and environmental impacts, the USS explained why it preferred a policy of engagement to disinvestment and how it was using its position as a large investor to advocate for positive change on environmental, social and governance matters.  They explained how members of the Defined Contribution (DC) scheme could select ethical funds for their investments, in line with their principles.

Senior representatives of USS Investment Management discussed their belief, shared by the Trustee Board, that companies able and willing to reduce their carbon emissions, and so support society’s journey to a Net Zero future, were likely to offer better returns for USS over the long-term than those who cannot or will not.

As part of the exhibition section, USS Trustees and staff were available for individuals to ask any specific questions.