Dutch insurer ASR has launched a defined contribution product with the option of variable benefits after retirement while participants’ pension assets remain invested.

The option of continued investment under DC arrangements were made legally possible in 2016, and variable benefit plans introduced by insurers Aegon, Allianz, Zwitserleven and Nationale Nederlanden the following year.

Centraal Beheer APF – a subsidiary of Achmea – and ABN Amro Pensioenen have also started offering a variable pension.

ASR said it has gone through a “thorough development process”, but emphasised that the steep drop in interest rates this year hasn’t affected its preparations.

The insurer already offers the option of “getting in lane” in the accrual phase for variable benefits after retirement.

However, the new product will enable clients to use its services for both accrual and benefits, it said.

A recent evaluation of the legislation by the ministry for social affairs stated that no more than 5% of retiring workers had taken up a variable pension in 2017 and 2018. This percentage is expected to rise to 12% in 2022.

The evaluation attributed the modest interest in variable benefits to people’s need for certainty as well as the fact that fixed benefits are usually the standard option.

ASR said it plans to increase workers’ eagerness by informing them at an earlier stage about the possibilities of its variable pension proposition.

It said its product comprises two variants, one with lower benefits for a start, but with better perspectives for inflation compensation and a smaller chance of benefits cuts. The other option starts with higher benefits.

Earlier this year, consultancy LCP noted that participants in seven variable pension products had seen their benefits reduced in 2019 as a consequence of poor investment results last year.

ASR said it will overcome this by using three-year average returns for establishing annual benefits. However, the insurer was not able to indicate straightaway whether this approach will prevent or reduce cuts.