Barbara Judge – A pensions pioneer

On 31 August 2020, the tragic news that former Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) chair, Barbara Judge, had died from pancreatic cancer was announced.

She was a pioneer in business, government, law and pensions, becoming the first female chair of the PPF in 2010 and was the youngest-ever US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commissioner when she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Judge also worked in several roles for the UK government in the Department of Trade and Industry and its Department for Constitutional Affairs, and was the first female chair of the Institute of Directors.

During her time at the PPF, where she served the maximum term of six years, she steered the pensions lifeboat to safer waters, with its assets increasing from £4.6bn at the start of her tenure to £23.4bn in 2016.

She was a strong advocate for The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to be given the power to block companies from deals that could negatively impact scheme members.

Following Philip Green’s sale of British Home Stores, with its sizeable pension deficit, to Dominic Chappell, Judge called for the regulator to be able to issue a binding veto over mergers and acquisitions so a purchasing firm is required to publish a detailed strategy for dealing with any pension deficit the target firm may have.

Speaking on BBC 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money programme in 2016, Judge said: “The point is we shouldn’t let unscrupulous business people do corporate transactions and ignore the pensioners, what we do need to do is protect the pensioners who have been paying into their pension fund, all their working life. We shouldn’t allow companies to do transactions which don’t take into account the rights of the pension funds.”

Her work helped ensure that the pension savings of UK workers were better protected from employers that may not have their best retirement interests at heart.

Judge was also an early supporter of auto-enrolment, a policy that has seen widespread success in helped more people to save for retirement, with more than 10 million people benefiting from the policy to date.

Following her departure from the PPF, Judge became chair of auto-enrolment company Hibob and was named chair of Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service.

In life she said she was inspired by her mother, who encouraged women to break down gender stereotypes by applying for jobs that were advertised as male-only, and promoted female financial independence.

A truly pioneering individual, Judge will be remembered by the pensions world and beyond as someone who broke down barriers and as a trailblazer for women in business across the globe.

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