The ninth annual Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) survey witnessed a substantial increase in the amount of assets under management rising by IR£2.9bn ($4.2bn) to a total of IR£19.2bn by year end 1996.

The gradual move out of fixed interest and into equities may have reached its limit, with IAPF chairman Paul O'Faherty pointing out that investment strategies were largely maintained over the year.

O'Faherty added that the survey revealed the underlying strength of Irish pension funds but said that this should not lead to complacency.

Over the year, there was a marginal decrease in the holdings of both equity and of fixed interest with an increase in the number of funds holding cash at year end.

Total equity holdings declined from 58.4% to 56.1% with the main de-crease coming in US equities. Exposure to Irish equity was up from 23.4% to 23.6%, while in international markets equity exposure fell from 35% to 32.4%.

Fixed interest holdings declined from 29.6% to 29.3% over the year.

The net cash flow of pension funds was IR£895m in comparison to IR£663m the previous year (See page 13).

l The sixth Irish Benefits survey shows that between 1994 and 1997 the number of Irish defined contribution (DC) pension schemes increased from 6% to 15% with 2% of schemes using hybrid arrangements.

Defined benefit (DB) still dominates, comprising 83% of schemes but this is a 11% drop from three years ago.

However, despite the growth in DC, plans involving members' contributions appear to fallen from 68% in 1994 to 63% in 1997. The average rate of pensionable salary paid by contributory members had dropped very slightly from 4.9% to 4.8%.

Approximately 45% of DC schemes were non-contributory for members. A further 32% had a fixed contribution of 5% of pensionable pay while of the remainder13% had a member contribution rate of less than 5% (generally 3% to 5%) while 10% of funds had a rate of more than 5%.

Thirty-five per cent of companies surveyed did not disclose the company contribution rate. Of those that did 25% matched the member contribution. The most common contribution rates were 5% and 10% each accounting for about 25% of companies responding. The cost of death in service benefits is paid seperately by the employer in 72% of DC schemes.

The IAPF stressed that the survey only covered IAPF members. It was based on 247 replies from Irish pension funds.

John Lappin