The Dutch Pensions Federation is to publish recommendations to help Dutch schemes increase board diversity, arguing that the number of younger trustees and women in board positions was far short of the level agreed with the sector years ago.

Bram van Els, spokesman for the Federation, said: “Efforts need to be stepped up, as board diversity remains poor.”

Less than 30% of Dutch pension funds have one board under the age of 40, according to research by television programme NOS op 3.

This is at odds with the Code for Pension Funds, which states pension funds must aim to have at least one trustee of under 40 and one female board member.

According to another recent study – conducted by Whyz, a headhunter consultancy for the financial sector – about 20% of younger board members are not given time off by their employers for board positions at their pension funds.

“Pension funds should point out to the sponsors that having a seat on the board or accountability council is also a chance to develop skills for their staff,” Van Els said, citing one of the Pensions Federation’s recommendations.

He added that several pensions funds already offered talented young people an opportunity to gain experience by participating in their boards’ activities.

Van Els denied that companies’ level of co-operation would depend on financial considerations, “as pension funds do compensate the employer for the time a member of staff spends on the board”.

The spokesman also argued that ever-increasing supervisory requirements for board expertise would make the search of suitable candidates even harder.

He added: “The fact many people in their 30s are in the ‘rush hour’ of their lives – work and family-wise – doesn’t help either.” 

Pieter Riedstra, director at Whyz, said he found that boards often picked candidates from their own network, in which young people were under-represented.

Anna Grebenchtchikova, a 25-year-old board member at the pharmacy-worker sector scheme PMA, agreed, saying boards were reluctant to appoint younger trustees.

“The real problem is that they prefer to source candidates from their ‘old boys’ network,” she said.

Grebenchtchikova pointed out that supervisory requirements were no stricter for young candidates, and that this group usually had a “better grasp” of the matter, as many had a job in the pensions sector.

“At the same time, however, they have less experience in actual governance,” she conceded.