ITALY - The current board of Cometa, Italy’s largest private pension scheme, will be overhauled this summer as chairman Fabio Ortolani leaves for new commitments in the country’s private pension sector.

Under Ortolani’s chairmanship, the scheme increased its assets under management to just under €6bn and underwent significant changes, as the board tried to battle the economic crisis that drew away members who lost their jobs.

The scheme - which provides private retirement solutions for workers in the engineering industry - is now the largest private one in the country, both in terms of members, which are around 450,000, and assets. Overall, it is the third largest scheme after the two state schemes, INPS and INPDAP.

Cometa’s regulations mean that every three years the founding institutions - Italy’s employers’ association, Confindustria, and a group of trade unions such as Federmeccanica, FIOM and CGIL - switch seats on the board.

After the election of the new board, which will take place in the summer, representatives will hold the chairman’s seat from the unions, while Confindustria will appoint the vice-chairman.

By 2008, the scheme, in addition to achieving a €2bn increase in assets to the current €5.7bn, had increased membership to 474,000, only to lose about 24,000 in the following two years due to factories closing and unemployed workers needing release of funds during the economic crisis.

However, Ortolani said the scheme had managed to retain members who had not been put out of work in recent years and keep membership above the critical 450,000 mark.

He added that the fund had the potential to increase AUM by around €900m per year, and that there was another 550,000 potential members in the sector.

Last summer, Ortolani led Cometa in the process of hiring nine managers as part of a significant overhaul of its asset management strategy.

Six months into the new asset management contracts, he said the scheme was reviewing the managers’ performance to further refine and improve the strategy.

The outgoing chairman said two of the biggest challenges for the new board will be increasing membership substantially, which he plans to contribute to by running a major media campaign at the time of the elections, and leading the debate on the limitations to investment for Italian schemes. 

The Italian government plans to relax these limits so private pension schemes have more freedom to invest in riskier but potentially more rewarding financial products. 

Ortolani has taken a position at AGCI (Associazione Generale Cooperative Italiane), the Italian cooperatives’ association, overseeing its relationship with the three cooperatives’ employees pension schemes: Previcooper, Filcoop and Cooperlavoro.