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Swiss multi-employer schemes criticise regulator over risk proposals

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The top Swiss pension supervisor Oberaufsichtskommission (OAK) wants to give local regulators more power over multi-employer schemes, as more pension plans are being transferred.

With increasing regulatory demands and a continued low interest rate environment, many smaller company pension plans have been joining so-called Sammelstiftungen – collective foundations – or other Gemeinschaftseinrichtungen, which are multi-employer plans organised in a vehicle other than a foundation.

Additionally, Axa Winterthur – a major pension provider to small and medium-sized businesses – announced earlier this year that it would no longer offer full insurance cover for its 40,000 clients but instead offer them individual pension plans, transferring some of the risk to these businesses.

Under the amended regulatory framework proposed by the OAK, each of these individual plans would have to be assessed by an expert who would look at longevity risk, investments and other parameters.

However, Sergio Bortolin, president of the association of collective pension funds in Switzerland, the Inter-Pension, said this policy “cannot be executed”.  

Bertolin – who is also managing director of the CHF16bn (€14bn) Asga multi-employer pension fund – argued that the regulation was “completely superfluous” as local authorities already had the means to assess the risks related to collective pension plans.

“The OAK is exceeding its authority with this directive,” he added. 

Asga is the largest independent Gemeinschaftseinrichtung in Switzerland, serving over 12,000 companies, mostly SMEs. It would not fall under the new regulation as companies joining with their pension plans are integrated into the overall risk and return structure.

In Sammelstiftungen, however, each client – whether a one-person business or one with 1,000 employees – has a separate pension plan within the collective.

In the note published with its draft proposal, the OAK said the current legal framework only included very few special regulations for collective pension plans.

The regulator cited such Sammelstiftungen’s “complex structures” and the fact that multi-employer pension plans operated in competition with other providers.

“Compared to company pension plans these characteristics provide additional requirements particularly regarding governance, transparency and security of funding,” the OAK stated.

Swiss stakeholders have until mid-January 2019 to comment on the draft during the consultation phase.

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