Tom Ross has had a busy time picking up new jobs this year.
The Aon Consulting principal started in regal style by receiving an OBE at
Buckingham Palace for services rendered to the industry.
Soon after, he was crowned chairman of Scottish Life – the firm that gave
him his first job in finance, training him up as an actuary. This year, he
has also become a non-executive chairman of PR company Profile Corporate
The latest role for the former National Association of Pension Funds
chairman comes from Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling.
Following his success in the role as chairman for the DSS-backed pension
provision group, he has now been asked to chair a new stakeholder pensions
advisory group, charged with ironing out problems in time for the
stakeholder launch in April 2001.
For such a busy man, Ross comes across as surprisingly relaxed and having
a lot more time on his hands than his new jobs must surely allow him. But
the 55-year-old seems to take it all in his stride.
He is one of the chosen few charged with debating pension issues on behalf
of the industry to ensure the Government rolls out products that providers
and customers want.
Ross says he is committed to making stakeholder a flexible product and the
Government must make sure it is easy to understand if it is going to be a
He says: “I would get rid of the cap for stakeholder for a start. The
Government seems to be paranoid that the tax benefits will be abused while
the simple truth is that only a few people would take advantage of it. The
loss of tax revenue would be very minor because there is a natural limit
for pension contributions that few people reach.”
Although Ross believes stakeholder designs may be unnecessarily complex,
he is hopeful some of the red tape can be cut away.
He says: “I think a lot of the things the Government is saying are
laudable. But it is too chicken and is not being bold enough in scrapping
some of the old pension problems and building something new.”
His pragmatic approach may be one of the reasons Ross has climbed to the
top of the pension consultancy tree.
Others may have decided to throw in the towel fighting for changes against
a frustrating “third way” consultation process which delivers more on hot
air than substance.
Ross says he is working on how the state can ensure the self-employed make
decent provision for retirement.
He says he is willing to chew the fat on consultation groups because he
feels the industry has treated him well throughout his career and he wants
to give something back.
He says: “I am fascinated how the whole process of rolling out pensions
works. Feeling I may be able to have a little influence makes it all seem
Enjoying the challenge of getting involved in pension policy, has Ross
ever considered a more hands-on role by entering politics?
He says: “It would be a very demanding job and one I would find quite
frustrating. If you are completely dedicated to being an MP and are on the
back benches, you may be able to have an influence but that is not me. You
need to have a thirst to be in control to get to a level where you can make
a difference. I am happy trying to make an influence in my present
Ross clearly believes there is more to life than pensions.
His weak spot appears to be the horses. He says: “I am a keen racing man
and love going to watch the horses at racecourses such as Cheltenham,
Goodwood, Newmarket and York. I am not a big gambler but am interested in
the betting side. I have shares in some racehorses. One of them,
Mastermind, recently came second at Newmarket.”
Other interests outside the office include music and he enjoys going to
listen to the London Symphony Orchestra whenever he has the chance.
Although Ross has a flat in Edinburgh, his main home base is in the
Buckinghamshire countryside, where he enjoys gardening. The green-fingers
influence comes from his family. His father runs a farm in his native
Highlands. Ross admits he had wanted to follow in his footsteps when he was
younger but changed after completing a maths degree in Edinburgh.
Ross joined Scottish Life in 1966, where he trained as an actuary. But in
1971 he felt the calling of adventure and emigrated to Vancouver in Canada
with wife Margaret and their two young children Elaine and Steve.
He says: “I wanted to see the world. It was a very interesting time but we
decided that, for the sake of the children's education, we would be better
off back in England.”
In 1976, after returning from his job as an actuary for Aon Consulting
Canada, Ross found a similar role with consulting actuaries Clay &
Partners. During his time with this firm, Ross saw it taken over by
Alexander & Alexander in 1993.
Then fate brought him full circle, with another takeover making him again
an employee of Aon Consulting.