GERMANY - Heribert Karch, the newly elected head of the German association for retirement provision aba, has questioned the liberalisation of the cross-border EU pensions market.

At the aba's 73rd annual conference, a new board unanimously elected Karch - head of Metall Rente, the multi-employer scheme for the metal industry - as chairman.

In his inaugural address, Karch said he was "not fully convinced" competition across European borders would lead to more efficiency.

"What would an EU domestic market for pensions lead to?" he asked. "Cost cutting? Pooling? Pan-European fiduciary offerings? I don't know."

He stressed that Germany already had a well-functioning, cost-efficient second pillar that was based on the participation of all stakeholders and their trust in the system - as opposed to "a mere pension fund business".

He also criticised German politicians, some of whom have recently demanded a strengthening of the third pillar.

"We should ask the politicians, without making any accusations, why the focus is not put on the second pillar like everywhere else in the world," he told delegates.

Karch also said he wanted to tackle the complexity of pensions, which deters some small and medium-sized enterprises and increases employee contributions to pension schemes.

The head of the collective scheme stressed that responsible investments should not be used as a "placebo" for secure retirement provision or used to cover up a lack of security.

"At a 20% market loss, it does not really help beneficiaries to know their funds had been invested responsibly," he said.

Boy-Jürgen Andresen, after 24 years as aba chairman and 33 years on the organisation's board, announced at the conference that he would not stand for re-election.

Joachim Schwind, chairman at the Hoechst Pensionskasse, was re-elected deputy, while Georg Thurnes, chief executive at Hewitt, was elected to replace the other deputy Klaus Heubeck, who stood down but will remain on the board.