ITALY - The Italian private pension fund sector showed mixed signs in terms of growth of members and assets in the wake of recent volatility in the financial markets.

According to a recent study by Mefop, a government-owned pension research institute, and Assogestioni, an investment manager association, open pension schemes, which are not sector specific, have seen an increase in membership and assets under management (AUM) in the first three months of 2010.

Members increased by just below 1,000 units, while AUM increased by more than €228m. Italian open pension schemes have now reached more than €6.6bn of AUM.

Mefop’s figures showed members of closed pension schemes, which cover specific sectors, are now more than 2 million, with almost no change in the last 12 months.

Open pension funds have fared better, with an increase of around 3% in the last year.

Just over 5 million people have private pension plans in Italy, including individual pension plans and other instruments.

This, however, accounts for about 22% of the working population, and the figure has not increased significantly after a jump between 2006 and 2007, when the law on the Trattamento di Fine Rapporto - the lump sum employers give to workers at retirement - was approved.

Mefop’s data highlighted that Italian schemes lag behind their European peers in terms of the flexibility they offer members.

Only one closed pension fund and 17 open pension funds currently offer lifecycle solutions in Italy.

For some in the industry, the scarcity of lifecycle options is a concern.

Andrea Scaffidi of Tower Watson said: “Because of the lack of options, even young people have to choose prudent risk profiles, which makes it difficult for them to build capital.”