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Dutch dental technician scheme criticised over governance 'shortcomings'

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Tandtechniek, the €700m pension fund for dental technicians, is not being properly governed, according to both its accountability council and its supervisory board.

In the scheme’s annual report for 2015, the accountability council (VO) identified a number of the board’s “shortcomings”, which it said led to problems with decision-making, as well as causing problems in the relationship with provider Syntrus Achmea.

At June-end, the pension fund’s coverage ratio stood at 82.5%, despite 9% in rights cuts over recent years.

In 2015, Tandtechniek raised its contribution by 5.5 percentage points to 32.5%.

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In the opinion of the VO, the board was negligent last year and had “performed insufficiently to prevent the current situation”.

The VO was also very critical of the board’s performance in 2014, which had resulted in an extensive improvement plan aimed at changes in governance, risk management and outsourcing.

The accountability council concluded that risks have only increased rather than been reduced since then.

For its part, the scheme’s supervisory board (RvT) said it observed a lack of “co-ordination, direction and […] power” within the board.

It noted that risk management was not yet up to scratch and added that it was not satisfied with the way communication with participants and the hire of new trustees was conducted, and how costs were substantiated.

Although the RvT conceded that the implementation of the new financial assessment framework (nFTK) as well as the new investment strategy were implemented property, it found that the process was “very slow”.

In a response, the board said that it was surprised by the harsh criticism as it thought it had been on the right path to improvement.

Henk van der Meer, the scheme’s chairman, said the VO’s negative description of the board’s functioning ignored the improvements that had been achieved and were in progress.

He underlined that board advice and support – until recently carried out by provider Syntrus Achmea – had been outsourced to independent players.

The chair, however, acknowledged that the high turnover of trustees was bad for continuity.

He said the board had started a survey into the performance of Syntrus Achmea Pensions Management, and that it had formally terminated fiduciary and property contracts with Achmea in order to get the contracts “modernised”.

The board is currently preparing a plan for consolidation, aiming at either a merger with several smaller schemes or joining a large industry-wide pension fund at the end of 2017.

The latter solution would, however, be difficult because of the low funding of Tandtechniek, as it would carry the chance of a large one-off rights cut, Van der Meer pointed out.

The pension fund for dental technicians has 3,500 active participants, 5,500 deferred members and 1,852 pensioners affiliated with 640 employers.

It reported costs for pensions provision of €330 per participant.

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