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Belgian pension industry ‘facing destruction’

BELGIUM – Increasing regulatory requirements could destroy the smaller Belgian pension fund industry, according to a consultant at Hewitt Associates.

“Belgium is a country of small to mid-sized pension funds. Continually increasing requirements might finally kill the market of smaller pension funds,” said Thierry Verkest.

He added: “Regulations and requirements are increasing every year. I do not expect a change in this trend.”

Verkest was responding to the newly imposed pension fund reporting requirements, which have been labelled “excessive” and “costly” by the Belgian Association of Pension Funds (BVPI).

Introduced by the National Bank of Belgium (BNB) and the Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA), these requirements demand more detailed information about the scheme.

According to the CBFA, the requested details relate to, amongst others, any changes to schemes, the number of members, the type of scheme and organiser, benefits and financial methods.

It added that the information will be streamlined through a new “common channel of reporting” – a merger between the securities data demanded by the BNB and the requirements of the CBFA.

According to the CBFA there is a “serious decrease of costs” because schemes don't have to pay annual updates for software providers anymore.

“The new reporting system has made it much easier for the pension funds to do the reporting themselves because the system provides three ways of reporting: e-mailing, uploading and filling out the web forms.”

Henk Becquaert of the CBFA – and former principal private secretary to Belgian pensions minister Bruno Tobback – told IPE: “We really don't understand why it would be too costly. The CBFA demands nothing that should not already be available in a well managed pension fund.”

According to BVPI secretary general Hugo Clemeur, there are currently ongoing talks about the new requirements.

“I certainly hope in the coming weeks that we will have clarification and eventually a revision” of the new requirements, he said.

Earlier this month the International Monetary Fund found “major weaknesses” in the supervision of pension funds in Belgium.

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