Today Programme interview on the BHS pension settlement: March 2017

Moneybox interview on Baroness Altmann: July 2016

Newsnight piece on USS: October 2013

Today Programme interview on new NHS pensions: June 2012

Today Programme interview with Robert Peston on JER's analysis of public sector pension costs : January 2012

Today Programmme interviews on public sector pensions : July 2011 & April 2011

I set up John Ralfe Consulting in 2003 to help companies & trustees to address pension issues in a clear, focused & practical way. (See Financial Times profiles November 2011 & March 2003).

Until 2002 I was Head of Corporate Finance at Boots and was instrumental in moving the £2.3bn Boots Pension Fund to 100% AAA long dated sterling bonds, followed by a Company share buyback, described by The Economist in 2006 as a “landmark”.

My clients include FTSE100 & FTSE350 companies, with pension liabilities from £200m to £2.5bn, as well as non-quoted companies, and the trustees of one of the UK’s largest university schemes.

In 2012 I appeared as an expert witness on BT's pensions before the Competition Commission, on behalf of BSkyB and TalkTalk, following a report to Ofcom I wrote in 2010. In June 2012 the Competition Commission rejected BT's claim that Ofcom should allow it to re-charge its pension deficit payments to customers.

In 2016 I was a Specialist Advisor to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in its inquiry into BHS pensions and pension regulation.

I am a regular contributor to the Financial Times and
the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme and have appeared on the BBC News at Ten & Channel 4 News.

Since 2003 I have written over 70 research notes and articles on all aspects of pensions, including a series of 50 notes sponsored by RBC Capital Markets and over 40 comment pieces in the Financial Times FTfm.

Amongst these notes, I was the first person to highlight the pension position of UK universities (2006), MPs (2008), the Coal Board (2008) and The Church of England (2010), as well as the impact of recent changes to public sector pensions.

I was also a consultant to the Accounting Standards Board on FRS17 and the International Accounting Standards Board on share options.

My practical & pragmatic approach is underpinned by a rigorous framework of economics and I have worked with leading US academics, including Harvard Business School to turn Boots Pensions into a Case Study.

As well as pensions, I have 20 years capital markets & treasury experience, both as a corporate and banker.

Before joining Boots in 1991 I spent 11 years in banking & consulting with Chase Manhattan, Warburgs, Swiss Bank Corporation and Ernst & Young Corporate Finance.

From Grammar School in York I went as an Open Scholar to Balliol College, Oxford, where I got a First in PPE in 1978 & then studied economics at King's College, Cambridge. See biography.

I have now moved most of the “topic” pages to an archive section, since they have not been updated properly for some time. Much of the commentary and articles are still relevant to today’s issues.

I have added a new page on public sector pensions, bringing together many articles which have echoes of the debates 15 years ago in the private sector.

The site, which can be searched and browsed, contains over 1,600 papers & articles on pensions, ranging from academic journals, to Government Papers to newspapers. Copyright for all articles and images remains with the author & original publication. Registration is required to minimise auto-spam mail.

Many of the articles in the database are from the Financial Times which provides unrivalled news and analysis on pensions. Articles from August 2004 are linked to the FT website, when it started.

For FT articles before then I can show only a summary for copyright reasons.

My FT articles and letters are available as PDFs as well as a link to the FT website.

Please report any broken or incorrect links to JohnRalfe@JohnRalfe.com

"It's zombie versus lifeboat for British Steel Pension Scheme"
FTfm April 2017

“BHS deal shows UK pension regulation needs strengthening"
FTfm March 2017

"Is the Green Paper a green light to attack pensions?"
Times Comment March 2017

"Don't cash in your DB pension" FT Money February 2017

“UK public sector pension costs understated by £15bn a year” FTfm February 2017

"Ease pension issues with virtuous borrowing cycle"
FT letters January 2017

"A thought experiment worth repeating" FT letters November 2016 Co-written with Zvi Bodie

“No jiggery-pokery with market value”
FT letters October 2016

"A new Weighing Machine won't solve the UK’s pension problems" FT Letters September 2016

“Noisy lobbyists are shouting that the pension sky is falling” FTfm September 2016

“Pensions guarantee with no ifs, buts or maybes
FT Letters August 2016

“USS pension scheme will hobble UK universities for a generation” FT Letters June 2016

Halcrow calls into question the UK’s system of pension regulation" FTfm June 2016

“In extremis all creditors should take a haircut, not just pension scheme members” FT Letters June 2016

“Got a final salary pension? Time to steel yourself” FTMoney June 2016

“Rules on pension “rescue plans” are unclear”
FT Letters May 2016

“BHS has lessons for the state of pension regulation”
FTMoney April 2016

"Tata Steel is a heavy burden for the Pension Protection Fund” FTfm April 2016

"Scrap pension tax relief & boost the basic state pension"
FT letters March 2016

"Let doctors, & others, opt out of pension for higher pay"
FT letters January 2016

“We should move to a flat rate top-up for all pension savings

FT Money August 2015

"Eton’s extraordinary new side-bet needs explaining"
FT letters August 2015

Parliament“MPs’ pension liabilities are nonsense” FTfm 2015

"Zombie scheme haunts Pension Protection Fund" FTfm June 2015

"Public servants still promised more than taxpayers can afford" FT Opinion April 2015

"Huge tax loss likely from new rules on pension pots"

FT letters October 2014

"CDC pensions are a Ponzi con trick" FTfm June 2014

"A Queen's Speech contradiction"
FT letters June 2014

"Annuity "shake-up" could happen tomorrow"
FT letters February 2014


"Dear Archbishop, the Church is in pension denial"
FTfm February 2014

“CDC is not a magic wand to make risk disappear
FT letters December 2013

"’Actuaries’ magic pencil’ hides UK university pension deficit" FTfm October 2013

"Risk still attached to holding equities"
FT letters, with Zvi Bodie September 2013

"Equities’ value is irrelevant
FT letters September 2013


"PPF digs deep in UK Coal deal" FTfm July 2013

"MPs prefer to reject pay rise and keep generous pensions"
FT Letters July 2013

Kodak "Kodak deal brings regulator into question"
FTfm May 2013

"UK pension lobbyists have got it wrong"
FTfm March 2013

"Smoothing won't solve our pension problems"
FTfm December 2012
Royal Mail
"Another coalition conjuring trick"
FT letters 2012

"Understated (public sector) pensions costs a poor legacy"
FTfm 2012

“Public sector pensions make mockery of Whitehall savings”
FT Letters 2012

"The real reason for the death of "the cult of the equity" is more fundamental than just equity underperformance"
FTfm 2012

“A collective pension can transfer investment risk from one member or from one generation to another, but it cannot make it disappear”
FTfm 2012

Mirror“Newspaper puts creditors before pensions”
FTfm 2012

"Ford is right to match its pension assets and liabilities" JER & Zvi Bodie FT A-List response February 2012

"If DB pensions didn’t exist, would we invent them?"
FTfm 2012

The Pensions Regulator can become transparent and accountable only if the law is changed” : FTfm 2011

George "The correct discount rate for public sector pension costs"
Letter to George Osborne 2011 by JER & 22 other UK, US & Australian pension experts

"The real total pension cost for 2009, using the market ILG gilt rate, is about £30bn, double the £15bn official cash cost"
FTfm 2010

gm"Pension pothole on GM's road to recovery"
FTfm 2009

BT "Behind BT’s deep, dark pension deficit" FTfm 2009

"Just to match pensions in payment, schemes need to make a £125bn switch from equities to bonds" : FTfm 2005

"Surely the days of whistling in the dark, hoping rising markets will plug deficits, are gone?"
RBC Capital Markets Note 2004

"Company pension funds are not self-contained entities, but simply part of the sponsoring company" FTfm 2003

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