BELGIUM - The Belgian Association of Pension Institutions (BVPI) is in "serious talks" with European pension funds and one American fund in a further effort to establish Belgium as a pan-European pension fund domicile.

Chairman Philip Neyt made the remarks in an interview with IPE during a seminar for pension funds in Brussels yesterday - although he declined to name which funds or countries were involved in the talks.

With new legislation coming into force on January 1 next year Belgium, along with other European Union member states such as Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, are seeking to become domiciles under the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) directive.

According to the BVPI, Belgium will win this race as its pension regulator, the CBFA, and the new framework will give more freedom to schemes than in the other countries.

Neyt particularly criticised the Dutch regulator, the DNB, for having "too many regulations" and for being "too stringent". This criticism was echoed by Hervé Noel of Suez-Tractebel.

Asset managers at the seminar predicted that Belgian pension funds, which are mostly small to mid-sized, are terrified by the new responsibilities that comes with more freedom.

Neyt refuted this, saying the new "much needed" legislation is "not complex".

Also at the event was Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. He said that despite never having had a pension culture previously, the country is catching up and is the first to offer multinationals such a flexible fiscal framework.

Economist Geert Noels of Petercam however warned that, though Belgium has a favourable position to become a new financial centre, there is still a need for "an active service-orientated economic policy".

Neyt also said he expects an explosion in sector pension funds in the next few months, with the metal and tech industry leading the way, making it possible for others to follow.