AUSTRIA - In the first nine months of this year the 19 Austrian pensionskassen returned 7.35%, according to the pension fund association FVPK.

Half of that return had been achieved in the first half of the year and the positive return brings the long-term average annual performance back up to 5.74% from just over 3% at end-June. (See earlier IPE story: Austrian pensionskassen back on positive ground)

Fritz Janda, head of the FVPK, said this was proof that the system worked over the long-term.

"In the public debate pensionskassen are often judged according to single results, but when managing pension assets the long-term average is important," noted Janda.

He also said the positive result was thanks to the "fast actions" taken by Austrian pensionskassen managers during the crisis.

Christian Böhm from the FVPK and head of the APK Pensionskasse had noted earlier that the equity quota fell significantly in 2008 to between 10% and 25%.

"Not only because of share price depreciation but also because of re-shuffling," he explained.

Austrian pensionskassen are frequently slated in the public debate at present for their average -13% performance they delivered last year.

Meanwhile, Michael Spindelegger, head of the conservative union federation ÖAAB and Austrian foreign minister, said there had to be safe options for pension fund members.

"Those people who currently are in a pensionskasse which had very bad results have to be given the option of switching into a ‘gilt-edged' [ensionskasse which is taking no risks," he said in an Austrian TV debate on Sunday.

A reform of the system which will include more individual choice for pension fund members will go before parliament later this autumn. (See earlier IPE story: Pensionskassen are 'confident' about Austrian court action