Council pension fund to join forces with Cambridge college to buy a bank

THOUSANDS of workers with pensions managed by Cambridgeshire County Council could soon find they are the joint owners of a bank.

The county council pensions committee will hear progress this week on their efforts to finalise the purchase.

Up for grabs is the Pensions Bank, registered with the Financial Services Authority, which the council’s pensions committee is in the throes of buying in partnership with Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The bank offers specialist services to pension scheme administrators and trustees.

Reports to the pensions committee say the books of the bank have been analysed and that a business plan to buy it was considered prudent “with full diligence also being undertaken by legal advisers.”

The council’s pension fund would own 40 per cent of the bank, as would Trinity Hall, with a private investor, entrepreneur Ravi Takhar taking 15 per cent and the other five per cent being spread around.

Rate of return on the capital employed after four years is expected to become 17 per cent of the nominal sale of the bank and 20 per cent by the fifth year of trading.

“The investment in the bank is considered a unique and valuable investment opportunity to the pension fund with yields expected to be good and the risks relatively low, due to the directed and shared ownership and with the bank currently holding loans against personal pension plans,” says a report to the committee.

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Alliance and Leicester currently manage the bank which is owned by Law Debenture Trust Corporation. LDTC is a company holding shares as nominee for Vladimir Antonov, the former boss of Portsmouth FC who has been arrested on fraud charges.

Money Marketing magazine notes that Pensions Bank made pre-tax losses of �695,000 in 2010 and �387,000 in 2009.

Its 2010 accounts show it held just over �64m in customer accounts at the end of the year. The accounts include a provision for a �250,000 loss on a �1m deposit made with defunct Icelandic bank Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander.

The magazine quotes Pensions Bank chief executive Gary Wilkinson saying that “the buyers are progressing well with the formal change in control approval process required by the FSA, and are aiming for approval in early 2012.”

The aim for The Pensions Bank is to grow loans from �24.5 million to �162.5 million in the next four years.