NETHERLANDS - The Dutch metalworking industry is in discussions  about closer co-operation, which could result in a new €51bn pensions provider, the industry-wide Pension Fund for the Metal and Electro-technical Engineering Industry, according to  Metalektro, one of those heavily involved. 

PME, the pensions provider for Metalektro, is considering taking a stake in MN Services, which is the provider  for the Industry-wide Pension Fund for Metalworking and Mechanical Engineering Metaal en Techniek (PMT).

The €32bn MN Services, already the largest independent pensions provider in the Netherlands,  does its own administration and manages most of its assets internally, while PME has contracted out its asset management. Its administration is carried out by commercial insurer PVF Achmea.

“The reason for a taking a stake in Mn Services is the possible placing of PME’s assets of €19bn with the provider,” PME said. “If our pensions administration  were to be transferred to MN as well in the future, the stake will be increased, up to 50% ultimately,” it added.

A problem during the negotiations might be PME’s current contract for pensions administration with PVF Achmea. “PME has recently extended its contract for an indefinite period, showing its satisfaction with us,” said Achmea’s front-office manager Bas van Veen. “We were unpleasantly surprised by the new developments.”

In a statement, PME - Achmea’s largest client - denied that the quality and costs of PVF Achmea’s services are the reason for the discussions with Mn Services. “During the past few years, PME and Achmea have improved the service to all players in the sector,” it said.

“It has been our opinion for years that scaling-up of asset management can lead to lowering of costs and enhancement of fire power. Placing the pensions administration with Mn Services will simplify our work. At present, it is hampered because of having two providers active within the sector,” PME indicated.

“The Achmea contract can be cancelled and placed with MN Services, but shaping this is difficult,” daily The Financieele Dagblad quoted the chair of trade organisation FME, Jan Kamminga, as saying. Kamminga represents the employers on the board of Metalektro.

Having close cooperation between the two is logical, he indicated. “It is very inefficient if the metal sector has two voices on issues like pensions and collective labour agreements”.

The chance that the joint assets will be pooled is small, Kamminga added. “The separate pension arrangements differ too much. However, the ratio in the pension payments between employers and workers within the sector as a whole have been brought in line recently.”

The discussions have been speed-up after the PME employers placed their ‘levensloop’, or life-course, scheme with Mn Services, instead of PVF Achmea. “It was a strategic move, in order to find out how it works, and we are happy with it,” Kamminga was cited as saying.

Mn Services’ spokesman Geertjan Cath confirmed the current discussions about co-operation with PME. “But I can’t indicate how such a co-operation might be shaped,” he stressed. “Of course, we are keen to offer our services on administration and asset management.” It could take two months before any conclusions can be reached, he added.

PME manages the pension rights of 660,000 participants of almost 1,300 - mainly large and average-sized - companies, varying from ship-builders to producers of semi-conductors.