NETHERLANDS - The complexity of Europe's diverse national pension systems is driving up costs for multinationals, according to a survey by Aegon.

Its 'Bridging Pension Plans Worldwide' survey found the diversity of pension systems across the European Union was "making the region less competitive than their global rivals and accelerating the trend towards relocating jobs outside of the European Union".

There was new evidence that multinational corporations will be looking for more efficient ways to provide retirement benefits to employees.

Aegon said 74% of those interviewed would prefer to design and implement their own integrated cross-border corporate pension systems rather than waiting for EU-wide pension legislation to be implemented.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with LIMRA International (the worldwide association of insurance and financial services companies).

It highlighted an increasing worldwide trend towards transferring a greater degree of financial risks off their own balance sheets and onto individual employees by shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution.

"Our survey suggests that multinational employers are seeking a way through the European pensions maze and that they are concerned that complexity is pushing up administration costs," said Frans van der Horst, managing director of the AEGON Pension Network.

"The absence of integrated cross-border pension systems is seen as a significant obstacle to competitiveness.

"There is a clear and emerging need for a corporate solution to help multinationals regain their competitive edge and keep costs down.

"But European insurers are already responding to the challenge and the market is developing solutions. In the absence of a legislative framework towards a unified approach across the EU, multinationals will lead the way in seeking out cost-effective solutions from the market to meet their needs."