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PLSA stands by PensionsEurope membership in wake of Brexit

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The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has scotched any suggestion it could quit PensionsEurope in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, saying it remains a fully committed member of the Brussels-based industry body.

In a statement to IPE, the PLSA’s chief executive Joanne Segars said the two associations had a “busy agenda of work to do together”, removing the risk of PensionsEurope’s losing the PLSA’s sizeable annual membership fee.

Segars, until late last year chair of PensionsEurope, noted that the UK’s future relationship with the EU would take “some years” to be settled.

“In the meantime,” she said, “we continue to work closely together with PensionsEurope, sharing our expertise so we can continue to represent the interests of our respective members.”

In a statement commenting on the result of the UK referendum, Janwillem Bouma, chair at PensionsEurope, said the PLSA “remains an important and valued member of PensionsEurope”.

He said the industry group “regrets” but “respects” the outcome of the vote and emphasised the importance of the UK government and EU institutions’ developing a clear plan and timetable for the next steps.

The PLSA, which represents the interests of Europe’s largest pensions market, would not be PensionsEurope’s only non-EU member, as the Norwegian Association of Pension Funds and the Icelandic Pension Fund Association are full members.

Both countries, as members of the European Economic Area (EEA), are still subject to European regulation, such as the revised IORP Directive, and Solvency II.

The Swiss pension association ASIP is also a full member, despite Switzerland’s not being within the EU or EEA.

The PLSA is likely to be PensionsEurope’s largest and most financially stable member association, contributing fees equivalent to more than one-tenth of its annual budget.

Its departure would have left a sizeable shortfall in the European association’s budget, understood to be less than €1m.

In 2014, the then-National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) paid membership fees of £92,392 (€119,328) to PensionsEurope and reported income of £8.1m, according to accounts filed with the UK’s Companies House.

The NAPF, which has since rebranded as the PLSA, has seen its contributions increase steadily in recent years, in 2011 only measuring £85,964.

In contrast, the smaller Irish Association of Pension Funds, which reported income of €877,463 in 2014, paid €39,201 in PensionsEurope membership fees, according to company accounts.

The Dutch Pensions Federation – representing the second-largest European pension market, with assets well over €1trn – is likely to make contributions on a similar level to that of the PLSA.

However, the Dutch association has a significantly smaller pool of pension fund members from which to draw income, while it also maintains a full-time Brussels secretariat manned by Sibylle Reichert.

PensionsEurope not only draws income from full members but, in 2015, began organising its own events and operates a corporate and supporter membership.

The 27 corporate members listed on its website – which include Swedish pension provider Alecta, the Ontario Municipal Employers Retirement System of Canada and several large asset managers – pay €7,918 a year for the membership, according to a current brochure explaining its benefits.

In the week since the Brexit referendum, which saw 51.9% of votes cast in favour of leaving the EU, politicians from the UK’s governing Conservative party have suggested the UK should retain its access to the single market.

It remains unclear how this would be achieved, as a number of member states, notably Germany, have stressed that EEA membership would be contingent on maintaining the free movement of people – something parts of the Conservative party have rejected. 

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