Jonathan Bull retires as Chief Executive of OPDU

It was 20 years ago today …

After 20 years leading OPDU, Jonathan Bull retired on 31 July 2015, safe in the knowledge that the trustees looking after his occupational pension are properly insured in the unlikely event that anything goes wrong! We look back at the important contribution he has made to protecting occupational pension schemes and raising standards in administration.

Pensions Act 1995

When the Pensions Act was passed in 1995 trustees and sponsoring employers started to discuss how to respond to the new regulatory risks and liabilities they would face on its implementation in 1997. 

Enlightened leaders in the occupational pensions movement thought that insurance could have a role to play in protecting pension schemes and improving risk management.  Many trustees and consultants had heard of a company called Thomas Miller which specialised in the management of mutual insurance companies. They approached it to see whether it could establish a mutual to protect occupational pension schemes.  Jonathan Bull had just been promoted to Business Development Director and was asked to examine the feasibility of setting up a new mutual.

Mutual to the core

Jonathan had started his career at Thomas Miller in 1977 after completing his law degree.  He had spent the first decade or so of his career on the marine side of the business, insuring the liabilities of ship owners. He readily appreciated how lessons learned from losses, some of them tragic, could be shared with members to prevent similar losses occurring in the future. He led initiatives to promote what we know today as risk management. 

He then developed a successful new mutual insuring housing associations against the cost of repairing latent defects in newly built properties. A strong focus on risk management which resulted in substantial improvements in the quality of social housing construction was integral to the product.  Following this success Jonathan was ready for a new challenge when occupational pension funds started knocking on his door.

Establishing OPDU

Jonathan established a steering committee and, after a lot of hard work, OPDU was born. It was an innovative hybrid of the strong service and risk management ethos of mutuals and the underwriting strength of one of the world’s leading insurance companies, ACE.  OPDU got off to a flying start, with firms like Sainsbury’s and Philips joining as soon as it was launched in 1997, and it has since gone on to become the leading specialist insurance arrangement for occupational pension schemes.


Key to OPDU’s success was Jonathan and his team’s focus on ensuring that the cover and services provided by OPDU met the changing requirements of its members. Achieving this objective was aided by establishing an Advisory Council and Panel and by regular contact with regulators and industry bodies.  This has resulted in OPDU leading the way in developing comprehensive cover for occupational pension schemes and offering insurance which, to this day, remains unique.

OPDU has helped improve the standard of administration in pension schemes and thereby reduce losses by sharing the knowledge it has built up in seminars and the OPDU report and by initiatives such as the Annual Risk Conference.

A new era dawns

As Jonathan begins to enjoy his well-earned retirement OPDU will continue to focus on delivering the broadest possible cover and highest level of service to members. Redvers Cunningham, who worked with Jonathan on establishing OPDU from the outset, has succeeded him as Chief Executive and Martin Kellaway has joined as Executive Director from KPMG to further strengthen the executive team.

From left to right: Redvers Cunningham, Martin Kellaway and Jonathan Bull
From left to right: Redvers Cunningham, Martin Kellaway and Jonathan Bull

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