Tag Archives: Netherlands

Knowing participants’ profiles is becoming increasingly important

The debate about a new pension system in the Netherlands is becoming more and more complicated because of issues including solidarity, labor market flexibility, indexation security and uncertainty about the level of pension income. These subjects are complicated. The question regarding whether pension income from retirement date is high enough in relation to income received in active employment or more relevant to the spending pattern is not often mentioned in this context. The questions about how long pension is to be paid out (lifelong) and how much premium participants are willing to pay for their retirement are rarely discussed.

We suspect that one of the reasons that we find these questions so difficult to answer is because we do not really know about the (ex) participants (workers, retirees and former participants with vested pensions). As a consequence, the pension debate becomes an abstract compensation and benefits discussion focused on a complicated financing component.

Having relevant knowledge about our stakeholders could provide significant benefits. If we know and understand our participants well, then:

• Pensions, even without specific customization, could be fitted to stakeholders more appropriately.
• Choosing the most appropriate financing (in terms of risk, duration and reservation) could be ensured.

Getting knowledge and information about our pension stakeholders can be accomplished in various ways. This may include:

• The pension stakeholders ask the right questions at the right level of knowledge-estimated by using available data (such as salary level and job title)-and in understandable language
• Combining knowledge of our pension stakeholders with external data to gain more insight and to better understand their needs.

A good example is the correlation between education level and life expectancy of participants. The Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) regularly publishes that the life expectancy of a Dutch man with a highly qualified education at the academic level is much higher than that of a man who has enjoyed a maximum of elementary school education. Milliman calculated that the remaining life expectancy at the age of 68 for the more highly educated group was more than two years greater than for the other group.

In practice, it appears that data about the training of individual participants is often not available to pension funds. If this information were adequately collected and stored in the near future, then additional analyses could be performed using this data. This contributes to the necessary knowledge and insight into the needs of our pension stakeholders. As a result, not only the expected duration of benefits can be determined, but also, by combining this data with other available data, we could estimate the individual’s income needs. The combination of data and analysis of connections between data can create even greater insight. For example, it makes a big difference whether a participant in a retirement scheme has a physically demanding occupation or a light one, whether he travels regularly or stays at home reading, and whether he maintains a healthy lifestyle or just the opposite.

Collecting knowledge about our participants and analyzing already available knowledge or information (big data) could ensure that we design better pension schemes and that their funding takes place in the most appropriate way.

Let’s start with that today. More knowledge and insight into participant profiles helps both the employer and the performer get better “demonstrable in control” information regarding their pension commitments, provisions, and HRM policies.

Integrated risk management roundtable for Dutch pension funds

Milliman has organized a roundtable discussion to explore integrated risk management (IRM) for Dutch pension funds, for Wednesday, 27 September 2017, in Amsterdam. While the Dutch National Bank (DNB) devotes a lot of attention to IRM and expects pension funds to have a structured approach, we find that many funds have difficulty formalising one.

At this roundtable, Milliman consultants will discuss the following:

• What is IRM and what does it entail?
• What are common IRM strategies and policies for Dutch pension funds?
• How can the pension board perform a thorough risk assessment?
• How can the board ensure proper commitment to IRM?
• How can the board ensure adequate monitoring and evaluation?
• How can the board ensure that the DNB is satisfied with a fund’s IRM?

Seats are limited. If you would like to attend, email us here for more information.

Roundtable on UK defined benefit pension schemes

MBW International, a UK-based joint venture between Milliman and Barnett Waddingham, has organised a roundtable discussion entitled “UK defined benefit pensions, a current overview: What can we learn in the Netherlands?” on Tuesday, 3 October 2017.

The roundtable is aimed at Dutch companies with a deficit in their UK defined benefit (DB) pension schemes as well as companies interested in learning more about the latest UK pension developments.

The roundtable will focus on the following topics:

  • An update on the UK pensions market and the impact it is having on Dutch companies—this will include recent analysis by the leading UK actuarial firm Barnett Waddingham LLP (the analysis will be distributed at the event).
  • Current market opportunities which could help companies tackle their UK pension problems, including:
  1. Changes to the way UK employees can access their pension savings that make it more attractive for them to transfer DB benefits into defined contribution (DC) arrangements. This helps reduce the scale of the historic DB obligations.
  2. Continuing developments in the UK bulk annuity market.
  • What can we learn in the Netherlands from our UK counterparts?
  • Management of international pension plans—how can this be done in a more harmonised manner to increase efficiency, reduce risk, and achieve greater consistency across a business.

MBW International Directors Nick Griggs and Andrew Vaughan are guest speakers. Both Nick and Andrew have considerable experience dealing with these UK pension issues.

Seats are limited. If you would like to attend, email us here for more information.

The Dutch General Pension Fund, a new pension vehicle

Wouda-MartinThe total of assets of Dutch pension funds is over 150% of gross national product and still growing. The number of Dutch pension funds, however, keeps falling: from 800 to less than 400 in the past 10 years.

The attention of the press on pension issues has increased from close to zero to daily reports. At the same time, the political and public debate has intensified—especially when it became clear that some pension funds had to cut benefits because the insufficient funding could not be solved over time. Until the day that the actual cuts were announced, this risk was quite underexposed. One of the last items that gets the attention of the press, politicians, and the public is the obligation to account for the cost per participant in the annual reporting.

The reaction of the supervisor is to aim for more control, more regulations, and more compliance. The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) has recently sent out a note to all small pension funds, asking them to consider their reasons for future existence and to contemplate their sustainability.

Regulations are relatively tight compared to other countries. For example, the discount rate to be used to value liabilities is prescribed and published monthly by the Dutch Central Bank. Also there are standard formulas to calculate the solvency buffer. This is in contrast to one of its neighboring countries: Belgian pension funds choose the discount rate and solvency buffer themselves and need to submit it to the supervisor (well documented).

New pension fund board members are heavily tested on capacities and integrity by the supervisor. Some of the candidates that have been rejected have shared their stories with the press, but in most cases the DNB silently advises the candidates to step down before actually refusing to let them join a board of trustees.

Many of the smaller pension funds have transferred all accrued benefits to an insurer in the past 10 years. The disadvantage of this option is clear. The security one gets from an insurer comes with a price. The pension funds are used to taking some investment risk: the indexation depends on how the investment returns turn out. In case of really poor investment returns, there is in some cases the possibility of extra contributions by the sponsor. Pension funds also have the emergency brake of cutting benefits. The insurers, on the other hand, would be bankrupt, so their pricing of annuities is more prudent. The insurers do have the advantage of cost efficiency, which is due to the larger scales of their operations. An alternative for the smaller pension funds is to join a larger sector-wide pension fund. Joining a sector fund means joining the scale and risk pooling of the pension plan in the sector and can be attractive if there is indeed a sector pension fund active and large enough in the sector of the particular employer.

For multinationals with operations in more than one European country, there is the option of a cross-border pension fund. There is a small number of successful cross-border pension funds with Dutch plans. It appears to be a time-consuming road, as many parties need to be convinced. That is not always based on rational arguments: How would the average American employee react if his or her pension moved to Canada? There are Dutch pension vehicles (PPI’s) that can execute pension plans for foreign entities, but by law they can only do defined contribution (DC) plans. The PPI’s are not allowed to carry biometric risks. The Dutch may believe their pension system is the best in the world, but there is less confidence that it is convincing enough to attract foreign plans. Becoming able to execute cross-border plans is not the driver for the latest development.

The law will be changed to allow establishing pension funds that execute more than one plan for any employer. It will be allowed to ring fence the assets for different (groups of) contracts. Up to now, having multiple employers within one pension fund is only possible either for employers that are connected (legally or historically) or without the ring fencing (e.g., the sector funds). The new vehicle will be called the General Pension Fund (GPF, or APF in Dutch). It will allow for options that can be situated between insurers and the classic pension funds. If done well, it combines the best of both worlds: economy of scale, optimizing the investment returns, good governance without being too time-consuming, and risk pooling that is acceptable to members. In our opinion, it opens the door for new and innovative pension solutions.

Risk sharing within pension plans in the Netherlands

Sagoenie-RajishDutch pension system
Like many other European countries, the Netherlands operates a three-pillar pension system. This consists of:

1. A government-provided pension.
2. An employer-provided pension.
3. Personal pensions purchased through individual savings.

The first pillar, government pension, provides a basic income to retired people in the Netherlands. It is financed through taxes and is based on a pay-as-you-go system. The pension provided is linked to the country’s minimum wage. An amount of 2% of the state pension benefit is accrued for each year that an individual has lived or worked in the country until the age of 67, with a maximum period of 50 years taken into account. Depending on the increase in nationwide longevity, the age of 67 will increase.

The second pillar consists of occupational pension schemes. Companies offering their employees a pension plan are obliged to administer these plans externally via a pension fund or an insurance company. Funding for these schemes is provided through employer and member contributions and is based on capitalization. A majority of employers used to bear all the risk for these schemes but, in line with globally changing attitudes, there has been a move toward risk-sharing types of schemes. This pillar is discussed in further detail below.

The third pillar consists of annuities and pensions bought from individual savings. It is the main source of postretirement income for self-employed individuals and individuals working for organizations that do not provide a pension. To encourage people to make use of this pillar, tax incentives (within limits) are provided by the government.

In 2014 and 2015 the tax incentives in the second and third pillars were further limited. The annual salary on which the pension is based is limited to EUR 100,000.

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