AUSTRIA - Official figures from the Österreichische Kontrollbank have confirmed that Austrian Pensionskassen generated a 9% average return in 2009, as equity equalled return.

The 11 funded company pension schemes averaged a return on investments of 12.6% last year while the six multi-employer funds reached 8.41%.

And if you look at the average asset allocation, the reason for this gap becomes clear: Multi-employer funds had just under 30% in equities last year, while the other schemes' equity quota was 36.7%.

Christian Böhm, head of the pension fund association FVPK and the multi-employer fund APK, also said many of the various individual portfolios in multi-employer funds, some of which are also run specifically for one company, have reached high returns with higher equity quotas. (See earlier IPE story: Austrian pension funds return 9%)

"In the APK, returns range from just under 4% to high double-digit figures - depending on the portfolio," he explained to IPE.

He noted it was much easier for company pension schemes to convince their boards to increase the equity quota than it was for multi-employer funds to convince several dozen, as every portfolio has its own executive board.

Company funds held a 41% equity quota prior to the crisis, compared to just under 30% at multi-employer funds.

This meant performance in 2008 was worse for company schemes, losing 17.7% on investments and more than the multi-employer schemes which lost 11.8%.

"In multi-employer schemes, the pressure from competitors and from some people - who have suffered losses in their pensions and are now anxious - has led to a difficult communication situation when it comes to investments," noted Böhm.

"An educated and enlightened basis of communication is one of the regulating screws for good performance," he argued.

Elsewhere, performance figures for the Austrian severance pay funds have been published too.

On average, the nine severance pay funds (BVK) introduced in 2003 returned 3.65% last year, yet the average return achieved since inception is still only 3% after a negative performance of -1.97% in 2008.

Assets in the mandatory system have increased by 30% to €2.8bn and there are now 3.3 million members.

The ÖVK, a severance pay fund of the Vorsorge Holding which the ÖPAG is also part of, announced it returned 4.43% last year, while the VBV severance pay fund reported a 3.35% gain.

"The larger the asset volume, the better the severance pay fund can invest on the capital markets," claimed Andreas Csurda, head of the platform at these funds.

The severance funds are restricted to a shorter-term investment strategy in the investments they can adopt as they have to fulfil a full capital guarantee at the same time as people can drawdown money from the fund after three years.

Österreichische Kontrollbank (ÖKB) it is a bank-owned institute offering services related to investments, including data collection.

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