Europe's markets come the consultants' way AUSTRIA
The existence of independent third party advice continues to be a misnomer in Austria. International consulting firms, Hewitt Associates and William Mercer stand out as one of the rarities, offering actuarial and investment consulting services to Austrian pension funds. A major issue currently lies with the activities over the past two years, amongst the seven major multi em-ployer pension funds who are now exerting consulting influence through spin off advisory practices. Most of these funds themselves are either allied to or owned by the banks and insurance companies such as Bank Austria, Allianz and Winterthur and have been accused of advising employees of other companies to simply join their own schemes. What they advise you upon is to join their pension fund and not another pension fund," says Paul Roettig of Roettig & Rutkowski. "So the independence is really a big question in Austria at the moment." He adds: "There is a fine line between consulting clients and acquiring them in your own fund." Elsewhere, large companies continue to move from book reserve schemes to funded defined contribution arrangements (DC) and consultants have been busy advising companies from a tax efficient point of view on how to adjust to a pension fund financed scheme. "We have had an enormous increase in the amount of new money going into pension funds," says Thomas Keplinger at actuarial firm Arithmetica. Asset liability studies are also growing in importance amongst funds, though these are typically offered by the banks and are yet to take off on the consultants side of the business, says Keplinger. Consultants are finding increased source of business through advising on international accounting standards (IAS). "Companies are in-tending to look at their books according to IAS, which they haven't really done in the past." Pension funds also continue to select German or Austrian banks to run the investment side of the scheme, leaving little scope for international consultants to advise on external manager selection. However, the market in the future could be open to international managers for performance reasons. "None of the pension funds have really established high performance asset management," notes Roettig.