GERMANY – German bank HVB says it has 250 companies signed up to its new pension fund for the chemicals industry – with at least another 100 expressions of interest.

Carsten Eckert, managing director of pension markets at HVB Group, said that 250 companies have already signed up for its new Chemie Pensionsfonds which it has set up for the German chemicals industry. He added that HVB has had “three-digit” expressions of interest from other companies.

HVB will give a full breakdown of the take-up of the new scheme in early 2003, he said.

The scheme has had a “pretty high market impact in the industry,” Eckert told delegates at a conference in London.

Eckert says there is a potential pool of one million employees for the scheme, comprising 600,000 workers in the chemicals industry itself and a further 400,000 in related industries. He foresees that around 25%-35% of this total will eventually take up the scheme.

Eckert admitted that he does not see the new scheme as “adding to shareholder value in the next two years,” though he saw the move as being good experience for HVB as the German pension market develops. The experience will enable it to provide pension products on behalf of other organisations.

He said HVB offered the chemical industry an open architecture platform, though he said it had to create an information technology system that was “pretty expensive”.

HVB’s move into pensions provision is part of a wider trend of banks moving into what has traditionally been the preserve of insurance firms, he said.

In terms of marketing the scheme to employees, HVB has found costs low because there is a word-of-mouth effect.

HVB Group is Germany’s second largest private bank with total assets of around 712 billion euros.