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Dutch watchdog forces chairman of painting sector scheme to step down

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The Dutch pensions regulator, the DNB, has taken the controversial decision to force the chairman of the €5bn painting sector pension fund to step down.

Jan van Walsem departed the fund as of 1 July after 12 years’ service as employer chairman.

“The DNB’s enforcement department said I had ‘the wrong attitude’,” said Van Walsem, who is 67.

“They told me I was too reliant on trust and that I had to go. I was totally surprised.”

Van Walsem’s departure comes six months before he was due to step down anyway.

A number of pension funds and providers have complained about excessive regulatory pressure from the DNB of late, which they say is concerning itself in detail with the procedures and decisions of pension funds.

Among them are Blue Sky Group, the pension fund for the tyre and wheel sector and the Co-op pension fund.

The DNB was particularly critical of the relationship between Van Walsem and A&O Services, the fund’s administration arm, which was taken over by PGGM in 2013.

The regulator wanted to see more control on the part of the pension fund through a separate management office.

Van Walsem thought this was not immediately necessary, as the administration provider is owned by the social partners and works exclusively for the painting sector.

Following the takeover by PGGM, the funds thought it sufficient to appoint two external directors and make greater use of external advisers.

“We would rather have the knowledge and manpower on the board,” said Van Walsem.

“Apart from that, a management office is rather expensive and would cost €750,000 a year. That is all participants’ money.

“The DNB eventually agreed to this, but it hasn’t aroused much sympathy.

“The DNB wants to take on the role of the trustee board. I sometimes ask questions, and I don’t just do everything the DNB wants.

“I would say the DNB thinks I am not sufficiently compliant.”

The painting industry pension fund has assets of €5bn, providing pensions to 170,000 members in the painting and related sectors.

Its coverage ratio is around 114.5%, above the average in the Netherlands, and the fund has not had to make cuts to pension benefits, having only briefly recorded a deficit during the financial crisis.

Van Walsem said both the board and the administrator A&O had protested against his forced departure.

The chairman representing employees in the fund, Dick van Halster, said he regretted the way the matter had been resolved.

The fund and A&O Services were unwilling to provide further comment.

The DNB would not comment on the matter.

Van Walsem has been succeeded by Cathrin van der Werf, previously a director of the fund.

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