NETHERLANDS - An increasing focus on education and knowledge for trustees in the Netherlands is beginning to result in the growing use of professional trustees to take on the governance responsibility in smaller pension schemes.

Mark de Wijs, director of SPO and chairman of the Association for European Retirement Education (A-ERE) noted that policy guidelines from the Dutch Association of Company Pension Funds (OPF) and also VB and UvB - encourage those joining a board of trustees to be educated to a certain level within the first year - has made trustee knowledge more important in the Netherlands on both an individual and collective level.

De Wijs told IPE there is no legal formal policy to do this. Instead, it is established on a sector-wide self-regulation basis with an obligation to follow the rules, although the pensions regulator DNB does oversee the rules "so if it thinks a trustee board has a lack of knowledge it will say something about that", he said.

That said, he believes there is now a tendency, particularly for smaller schemes, to "move more towards professional trustees. That is a discussion that is going on, although the social partners [such as trade unions] do not want to let go of control of the larger pension schemes so there is still a need for their representatives to receive knowledge and education."

De Wijs, who is one of nine nominees for the Outstanding Industry Contribution Award at the IPE European Pension Fund Awards on 18 November, said the Netherlands is also starting to see a "reduction in the amount of pension funds in the market," and added: "As they have trouble getting this knowledge and appointing well-educated people so some are looking to join with the larger sector-wide schemes."

He continued: "There is a tendency for things [at pension funds] to get more complicated, take more time and need more experience. So for some trustees this means they are not in a position to be in control as much as they like to be. One direction of thinking is that they appoint a board of professional trustees with an internal supervisory board to monitor them.

"The structure of the governance of the pension fund can change if it gets too complicated. They have to decide how they can go on and professional trustees are seeing more and more of an entrance, particularly in smaller pension funds," added de Wijs.

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