Institutions such as the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) and the European Central Bank (ECB) are paying greater attention to the pension-fund sector, with the latter planning to exercise its right to collect data from schemes “probably from 2018”, according to Dietmar Keller, head of occupational pensions at German regulator BaFin.

At the Willis Towers Watson’s Pensionskassen Day in Frankfurt, some delegates said the ECB’s decision to start collecting data was one way EIOPA’s “common methodology” concept could be recommended for IORPs.

Another delegate at the conference told IPE that Germany’s Bundesbank had asked IORPs – on behalf of the ECB – to specify which data could be collected, at what cost and by how much effort.

The first results of the ECB’s data-collection exercise are to be published by 2019, but exactly what data will be collected remains unclear.

In his Pensionskassen Day presentation, Keller concluded that the holistic balance sheet (HBS) – or EIOPA’s renamed “common methodology” approach – would “remain on the agenda”.

“EIOPA recommends, in its opinion from 14 April, to use the concept as a risk-management tool, including a public disclosure of the main elements,” he said. 

Keller pointed out that, “for an implementation of that proposal, a change of the current IOPRP Directive is necessary”, but he added that, so far, there had been “no reaction” from European institutions.

The BaFin representative said he expected the HBS concept to be used in “possible further stress tests”.

Also speaking at the conference, Martin Schrader, chairman at the Pensionskasse Rundfunk, warned that the introduction of HBS elements “via the back door of stress tests” could deter companies from offering occupational pensions.

“Both employers and employees will see there is a problem rolling towards us,” he said. “But I’m unsure whether HBS is suited to explain this problem to members.”

According to some delegates at the conference, EIOPA’s announcement that some of the data calculated under an HBS approach might have to be published has already “changed the debate” on the future of occupational pensions.

One example is the debate over industry-wide pension plans in Germany, where guarantees are to be taken on by neither the company nor the pension fund but rather a protection plan.

But BVV board member Helmut Aden pointed out a problem with this approach.

“There will still be guarantees,” he said, “but everyone is pointing to someone else to take them onto their books.”

He said the concept of a protection plan had not yet been explained “convincingly” and that this protection included systemic risks that “will also have to be paid by someone”.

In Germany, the introduction of industry-wide pension plans, possibly with an opting-out model for members, is now under review.