The new IORP II Directive will increase costs in the second pillar in Germany despite not containing further capital requirements, according to Mark Walddörfer, board member at the Düsseldorf-based pensions consultancy Longial.
Under the revised directive for pension funds in Europe, heads of retirement provision in companies will no longer be allowed –apart from a few exceptions – to run the company’s pension fund.
“But in Germany, this is a common arrangement that ensures cost efficiency,” Walddörfer said, adding that it would be “important” for Germany to keep these arrangements intact.
Further, he warned that the increased requirements respecting information for members and data for supervisors would increase costs in the second pillar and were “not necessarily adding value”.
He quoted a survey by the German federation of company pension funds, the VFPK, which estimates an increase in administration costs of one-third.
His major criticism regarding the IORP II is, however, the definition of pension funds as ‘financial service providers’.
“In fact, they are social institutions created by employers not comparable to life insurers despite being regulated within a similar legal framework out of practical reasons,” Walddörfer said.
While this was only a question of wording at the moment, the actuary warned that it might lead to problems in 2018 at the planned revision of the IORP II.
“The danger is that capital requirements similar to those in Solvency II will then be included into the directive based on this definition – therefore we should try and change it now,” he said.
Walddörfer said he was convinced that a copy of Solvency II-like capital requirements for IORP would “kill them immediately”.
He also sees a danger of Solvency II being “introduced via the back door” with articles 29 and 30 on risk evaluation.
“In the worst case, pension funds will have to assess risks with marked-to-market parameters,” he said.
The Longial board member thinks German supervisor BaFin may introduce new risk parameters on top of those existing for IORP, and that EIOPA might want a say in those assessments.
“And the most important question remains, why investors with a long-term investment horizon should use any short-term marked-to-market criteria for assessing their funding status?” Walddörfer said.
He advised pension funds to “wait before implementing any of the IORP II requirements”, as changes were still possible.
All in all, he thinks IORP II requirements will “weaken” German pension funds and asked whether this was “going in the right direction”.
However, he pointed out that Pensionskassen were basically “on their way out” anyway, as few new pension schemes have been set up under this legal framework in recent years.
“A Pensionsfonds is much more flexible, both in investments as well as managing liabilities, as it can be underfunded for a limited time and apply a higher discount rate,” he said. ”Therefore, this segment will continue to grow.”