Date with destiny
It’s the time of reckoning once again for the pensions community as the IPE European Pensions Awards winners are announced. And as we always make a point of noting, it is also a time to celebrate the achievements not just of our winners, but of those involved in pensions the length and breadth of Europe. The Awards winners do not exist in isolation, they emerge from the vibrant network of pensions arrangements of all shapes and sizes that operate across the region.
This year we have seen a surge in entries, with the numbers up nearly 20%, which is a tribute to those funds that have decided to take on the challenge the IPE Awards present each year. For some funds, it is their date with destiny, as they take the plunge and enter to see how they match up to their peers, whether they go the route of the Country Awards solely or also try for one or more of the 12 Themed Awards.
The extra entries may well have been due to the fact that we have 34 Awards this year. At the country level, we are really delighted to have Awards for Iceland and Portugal and are gratified by the entries received from both these countries. We also included three new Awards at the Themed level, one each for best Equities and Fixed Income Investment, and one for the topical area of Liability-Driven Investment.
But perhaps most significant of all is the inclusion of a European Silver Award for the Best European Small Pension Fund, confined to funds with assets under €1bn. Our warmest congratulations to our first ever winner in the category, Raiffeisen Mandatory Pension Fund (Croatia). May its example be the light that guides many more funds in this size bracket to enter next year.
At the other European Silver Awards level, we have seen PGGM from the Netherlands come through in the Best Industry-wide slot, with Barclays UK once again the Best Corporate Fund. Our highest compliments to these high-achieving funds, which seem to be capable of turning in winning performances over the years.
But the accolade of accolades has to be kept for Danish high-flier ATP, whose ship has finally and deservedly come into the Awards harbour by pulling off the Best European Pension Fund of 2005 trophy in no uncertain fashion as well as the Best Public Fund, and three other Awards to boot. In previous years, ATP has come near to gaining access to the Best Fund enclosure, only to be pipped at the post. This year, the fund has proved that persistence pays off, but only if your fund has a strong and innovative message. A well-earned triumph resulting in a raft of trophies to take back to Denmark to prove the point.
It is customary to say in this context that the competition was fiercer than ever and that judges commented to this effect. In fact, a number of the judges do say the quality of entries has increased dramatically this year. You can judge for yourselves by looking at the quality that shines through from so many of the reports based on the winning entries in the pages of this Awards supplement.
We believe that once again this justifies the aim of the Awards, which is to demonstrate the excellence that imbues many of Europe’s pension funds, as well as showing the tremendous variety of approaches they take and the different environments in which they operate. To those that won our sincerest congratulations and to those that took the trouble to enter and came away with nothing, please do not lose heart, as some of this year’s winners will be funds that have entered unsuccessfully in the past.
This range of backgrounds makes judging no easy task, so we acknowledge our debt of gratitude to the 88 consultants and others up and down Europe, who put in the time and effort to mark and rank the entries, while the clock was ticking relentlessly. Without their dedication and diligence there would be no Awards.
The Outstanding Industry Contribution of 2005 Award has been won overwhelmingly by Koen De Ryck of Pragma Consulting in Brussels, who has played and continues to play an outstandingly influential role in the development of European pensions. This Award could not go to a more appropriate candidate – it seems purpose-built for his achievements.
It is gratifying to be able to say that this year’s Awards are bigger, with more Awards and, we believe, better than ever. Entries came from 24 countries, up from 14, ranging from newcomer Iceland to the New European countries. So the message is spreading. Here, we acknowledge the support and active co-operation of the sponsors of the Awards. Their input and assistance have been of immeasurable value in developing the Awards and bringing the concept to where it is now.