Dr Jane Newell OBE

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Honorary Doctorate of Sciences

 

Jane Newell was born in London, attended Merrow Grange Convent School and then Guildford Technical College. 

After working in a range of positions, she secured a post in the World Health Organisation in Geneva where she worked for twelve years dealing with public health services, mental health, health services research and during which time she was also personal assistant to the Assistant Director General from China. One of the Directors of the Organisation was Professor Ken Newell, the distinguished Community Health specialist. They married and when they subsequently moved to New Zealand Jane was encouraged to go to university for the first time; she was in her early thirties. It was a success story from the outset. Graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Linguistics, English and French, at the Victoria University of Wellington, she won a Senior Scholarship and then a New Zealand Government Postgraduate Doctoral Scholarship and she also taught at the University.

However before she could embark properly on her postgraduate studies they returned to Liverpool. There Jane joined the staff of the Liverpool school of Tropical Medicine where for eight years she was the School Administrator, responsible for all nonacademic services. Indeed, she has maintained this connection, having been subsequently Vice Chairman and Chairman of the School, and she remains its Vice President.

However, in 1991 Ken Newell suddenly and unexpectedly died. From this domestic turmoil a whole new phase opened in Jane's life. She made the brave decision to move to London and start her life anew.

And it was here that she began a career which, as we all know, has taken her to the highest realms of the pensions industry. In December 1991, the newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell died suddenly and shortly afterwards it was discovered that some £440 million pounds was missing from his companies' Pension Fund, leaving 30,000 pensioners potentially bereft. A Trust was established by the Government in July 1992 to help solve their plight and Jane Newell was appointed a Trustee. Three years later she became Chairman of the Trust where her work earned her great praise in the industry and, in 1997, the award of an OBE.

Thereafter her services were in enormous demand – and the list of companies and organisations is impressive. She chaired the pensions schemes of DSG (the Dixons' Group) and of United Utilities, where she also served as a non-executive Director on the main Board for ten years and was thus one of the very few women who were directors of a Footsie One Hundred company. She also chaired the Electricity Supply Pension Scheme and was Deputy Chair of Glaxo Trustee Companies, and a trustee of the Glaxo Smith Klein Pension Plan. Three years ago, however, she received the highest accolade when she was appointed to chair the Royal Mail Pension Plan, the second largest scheme in the country, with 450,000 members and assets of £24 billion. However, this was quite a challenge because the Pension fund had declared a deficit of £2.5 billion.

For any pension fund, to have the experience and expertise of someone like Jane Newell is crucial. She has been active in promoting more effective trusteeship and through the Pension Trustees Circle she has been promoting a better understanding of the risks and responsibilities involved in all kinds of occupational pension schemes. Only very recently she has been presenting to the London Pensions Fund Authority, a scheme in which many of our own employees have a major personal interest. In this day and age, there can be few more important roles than this, affecting as it does the prospects of millions of working people and where the need to continually improve trusteeship is clearly paramount. Indeed, the Times described her as "one of the most experienced pensions experts in the UK" under the caption "Big Shot".

Jane Newell has also shown long standing commitment to public service across a wide range of roles – a non-executive director of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital Trust, Independent Assessor for the Cabinet Office, and assessor for the Home Office for appointments in the Police, Prison and Fire Services, a Trustee of Common Purpose Charitable Trust and a magistrate in Liverpool and more recently in London. In 1996, not long after coming to London, Jane was invited to join the Board of Governors of the University. Three years later she became Chairman and remained so until she stood down at the end of two periods of office in 2007.

She has also displayed a powerful strategic sense, a tremendous dedication to the particular mission of the university arising from her own experience as someone who came late to higher education, understanding so many of the challenges which face our own students.

As Chair of the Board, she became fully involved with the Committee of University Chairmen, and for example chaired the communications group of the CUC, taking a keen part in its affairs, not least in developing its code of governance.

 
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