GLOBAL - High-level figures from the Dutch and Australian pension systems are meeting in the Netherlands next weekend to share expertise, increase collaboration and even explore the possibility of co-investment projects.

Delegates at the Superannuation and Pension Funds Summit on Dutch and Australian Cooperation and Alliance - including government officials, international organisations, academics, consultants and representatives from more than 20 pension schemes - will also look into the establishment of an international network of "top-tier" funds, although this will still be in the exploratory phase.

The summit was organised by the Centre for Investment Education.

One organiser told IPE that many of the summit's talking points, including the international network, had actually been mooted several years ago - with funds in Japan, Norway and the US reacting positively in particular - but the financial crisis had forced the industry to put the plans on hold.

But he said talk of international collaboration among pensions funds was increasingly in the air, adding that funds in the Middle East, for example, had been seeking closer ties to acquire knowledge and investment power from a broader network.

Another organiser highlighted the importance of economies of scale for the industry, particularly with respect to pension funds' growing interest in alternative investments such as infrastructure, real estate, hedge funds and private equity.

He also suggested international collaboration might enable more pension funds to bring alternative investment operations in-house.

In a panel session entitled 'Co-investment: Approaches, Experiences and Opportunities', delegates will explore the prerequisites for co-investing internationally and the topic of 'investment pipelines', as well as the notion of the Netherlands being "a gateway to Europe" for Australian pension funds, and Australia a gateway for Dutch funds into Asia.

Suggested benefits for a supra-national alliance include asset pooling, purchasing power, combined research centres, joint research and development, the sharing of best practice, the temporary exchange of personnel and even the increase of lobbying power.

Other topics to be covered at the summit will include the relative strengths and weaknesses of the respective pension systems; current models of cooperation; the importance of pension fund size and whether cooperation can be beneficial; different approaches to balance sheet management; and research on institutional shifts in strategic direction.