Non-mandatory industry pension funds in the Netherlands are anticipating pensions reform by developing plans comprising individual defined contribution (DC) accrual combined with a collective approach to benefit payouts.

Schemes including PNO Media, multi-sector pension fund PGB, and care insurers’ scheme SBZ said they were aiming for such plans, which resemble the concept favoured by the Dutch government.

The €5.9bn PNO Media scheme said it had introduced such an arrangement last month, while the €5.4bn SBZ fund was still fleshing out a combination of DC and defined benefit (DB) arrangements.

PGB – which runs €25.2bn – has already introduced an individual lifecycle approach to accrual for 7,000 savers in the marine fisheries and horticulture sectors, and wants to extend this plan next year.

Individual pensions accrual combined with lifecycle investment is not affected by Dutch regulations regarding coverage ratios or discount rates.

All three pension funds cited their approach as a way of “getting in lane” for the expected pensions reform. Negotiations on system reform were due to restart today, with a focus on the state pension retirement age. 

“Although I don’t know how the reform discussions will pan out, I do know that our scheme has become much more flexible,” said Nelly Altenburg, chair of PNO Media.

The non-mandatory sector schemes said employers in particular had demanded this kind of arrangement. In contrast to traditional plans that base pensions accrual on the average salary, the new model offers employers a better grip on the contribution level.

All three pension funds want to attract more employers by offering a DC plan.

According to PNO Media, which developed its scheme in partnership with Kempen Capital Management, such a plan was a good way to get in touch with sponsors.

“We want to become attractive to the many companies in the creative sector that haven’t joined a pension fund yet,” Altenburg said.

Individual to collective

The ways in which pension funds switch from individual accrual to collective benefits differ. PNO Media reduces the equity allocation in the lifecycle fund to match the level of its DB scheme. At retirement date, members buy into its benefits scheme and receive fixed, life-long benefits with the possibility of inflation compensation.

SBZ plans to establish a separate benefits fund. Its Collective Variable Pension (CVP) resembles the concept of the DC scheme pioneered by Shell Netherlands.

The CVP will pay out a variable pension, which limits volatility in returns by spreading them over several years.

PGB’s participants in its DC plan move to its DB scheme 10 years ahead of retirement in a 10-step process designed to limit the transfer risk.

It said it also wanted to offer its participants the option of variable benefits next year.