NETHERLANDS - The Dutch pensions industry should focus on EU countries in Western Europe as an export market for the Dutch pension system because their models are relatively compatible, according to an academic and pensions expert.

The UK, France, Germany and Spanish pensions markets should be targeted in particular, Olaf Sleijpen, professor of European economic policy at Maastricht University, has claimed as he believes these are the markets with pensions systems most in need of reform and which are the most closely related to the Dutch model.

Sleijpen, who is also director of strategy and policy at APG Group, the asset management arm of ABP pension fund, said he believes Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Finland are potential targets too.

That said, he suggested exporting the Dutch pensions model is not only about commercial opportunities.

"It is intrinsically linked to the future of the present Dutch system," he stressed, during his introductory lecture in Maastricht.

In his view, the Dutch model is increasingly under pressure, largely because international regulatory developments.

Although a change in their respective pension systems is not really necessary, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are also considered interesting markets to target because their pension models are the most similar to the Dutch system, Sleijpen pointed out.

In the professor's opinion, the Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovenia are interesting as potential customers for asset management only.

"As their systems are in relatively large need of reform, they are less susceptible to the Dutch model as a whole," he explained.

He suggested the Dutch pensions industry's most marketable element is its expertise on collective second pillar schemes, as well as on pension design, cost-effectiveness, integral pension asset management and governance though pensions administration is a less promising export product now, "as it needs substantial investments by pension providers", he argued.

"The present financial crisis is also offering opportunities. The fact that the Dutch system is under pressure is an extra reason to bring it to the attention of foreign players," said Sleijpen.

"Since individual defined contribution arrangements at home and abroad have performed worse than collective pension plans in general, the need for other models and solutions is greater than ever," he added.

APG Group concluded a deal with the €1.6bn Italian pensions provider PensPlan last year to initially manage €100m of its assets. Both parties signed a letter of intent to improve the performance of Italian second pillar schemes.

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