ITALY – Latest figures from Italian pension fund supervisory authority, COVIP, show a rise of 6.8% in the number of subscribers to Italian supplementary pension funds in 2002 from 2001.

By the end of 2002 there were 1.36 million members of open-end and closed-end pension funds, with around 4.5 billion euros in assets – an increase of 40% over 2002. The entire supplementary pension market (inclusive of foundations) has more than 2 million members.

“For pension funds, 2002 can be considered as a year of consolidation,” said president of COVIP, Lucio Francario. He added that, given the difficult financial market conditions, pension funds as a sector had shown itself to be mature, and as having a solid foundation.

Closed-end pension funds, of which there are 44, have more than one million members, registering an annual growth rate of 3.7%. This market is expected to grow further as more schemes move from a monocomparto retirement arrangement (a single investment option for all employees) to a multicomparto arrangement, whereby there are around three arrangements available to employees. Although the multicomparto arrangements tend to have higher exposure to equities, and Italians tend to prefer more conservative investments for their retirement.

Those not covered by closed-end funds can invest in open-end pension funds – predominantly liberal professionals and the self-employed – which have around 337,000 members compared to 287,000 in 2001. Consolidation is most obvious in this market where the number of authorised funds fell to 95 in 2002 from 102 the previous year. Says COVIP: “Open-end pension funds show huge growth potential, but operating regulations need to be defined.”

Pre-existing funds, known as foundations, which cover the banking sector and certain professional groups, have around 680,000 members, with around 30 billion euros in assets.

COVIP produces an annual report on the Italian supplementary pension market.