Foreign equity exposure buoys first-half returns at Swiss schemes
Swiss pension funds produced an average return of 4.9% over the first half of the year, according to estimates by pension fund association ASIP, while Credit Suisse, using a different sample, calculated a 4% average return in its Pensionskassenindex.
One reason behind the differing figures is the allocation to foreign equities, considerably higher in ASIP’s sample, ranging between 12% and 41%. In the CS Index, the average was 17.5% as per year-end 2013.
According to the pension fund association, there has been a “significant” shift towards foreign equities in recent years, from an 11% median allocation in December 2008 to 23% in June 2014.
The average exposure to domestic equities in ASIP’s sample, 4-20%, is closer to the Credit Suisse average at 14%.
Over the long term (since 2000), both calculations show an average annualised return for Swiss Pensionskassen of approximately 2.6%.
Meanwhile, Towers Watson reported an improvement in the quarterly reports of Swiss company pension plans regarding funding levels.
Over the second quarter, the average funding level increased by 100 basis points to 100.7% as per end-June.
However, the 103% mark reached at the beginning of the year was missed, the consultancy said.
Peter Zanella, head of retirement solutions at Towers Watson Zurich, said cutting the conversion rate to 6%, part of the Altersvorsorge 2020 reform package, would give Pensionskassen more flexibility in tackling the “most pressing challenges of this century”, including increasing life expectancy and low interest rates.
But he also stressed that the debates have “only just begun”, and that the final wording of the reform package was yet to be determined.
“Until then, the possible effects on Pensionskassen will remain unclear,” he said.