Like the industry AGA serves, its 10,000-strong work force is distributed in pockets around the world. The gas production and distribution group has to concentrate its strength locally in each market, so that only 10% of personnel are now in Sweden, explains Jan-Erik Danielsson, manager of pensions and international assignments, based in Lidingo, just outside Stockholm.
We have around 90 expatriates working around the world at anyone time," he says. This has crept up from about 70 a few years ago, and is likely to keeping growing slowly. Also the composition of this group is changing. "We are finding less Swedes and more third country nationals are working on this basis." This of course has knock-on effects for the pension arrangements.
As with other groups, the aim has been to keep those working outside their own country's in their home schemes as far as possible. "This is easier to do in some countries, rather than others," he points out.
"Where this is not possible, we have a multinational insurance plan, which is written on an individual and not a group basis."
But with the changes in the international workforce, this is kept very much under review by the human resources people in the different subsidiaries worldwide. "They discuss not just pensions issues but trends in compensation." The whole pensions and benefits area group-wide is coming under closer scrutiny, says Danielsson. "While we have not looked so far in great detail at what each company has, a start has been made towards this. We have begun to work with the Mercer pensions programme in order to get some kind of control over this, as we think the issues have to be taken very seriously and examined." AGA is also taking a hard look at what the group has by way of benefit programmes and what they cost. "Here we are asking about any gains there might be in central pooling."
Giving this an added impetus is the top-down interest at the corporate level. "We are seeing increasing interest from our finance department in these areas. Their approach has become much more value conscious to seeing what we are really obtaining for our money." The realisation is growing, he adds, that considerable resources are involved in the insurance, pensions and other benefits. "The question being asked is whether any of this expenditure could be used to better effect?""