AUSTRIA - Insurance group Allianz outperformed the market in life insurance and second-pillar insurance products last year despite "strong headwinds", but officials have warned turbulence could hinder pensions take-up.

While the life insurance market in Austria is stagnating on the whole, Allianz grew its premiums by 4.5% while the sale of state-subsidised third-pillar products grew 22%.

Allianz saw a growth of 28.5% to €78.1m in relation to insurance solutions for second pillar occupational pensions.

But speaking at the presentation of the insurer's annual results, Wolfram Littich, chairman of the board at Allianz, warned: "In times of market turbulences and drops in the interest curve, people want to invest their money short-term, making it difficult to sell life insurance or long-term pension products."

The Organisation of Austrian Insurers VVO noted in a press release "only a few companies" are making use of the insurance solution for their employees' retirement provision.

Aside from a Pensionskassen arrangement, the assets and liabilities can lie with an insurer in the so-called "betriebliche Kollektivversicherung" (bKV) with guaranteed returns, although returns are often lower than in a funded pension arrangement.

"In times of market turbulences, the bKV is the only way to ensure the asset value of pension promises," the VVO noted.

VVO-president Herbert Fichta wants to see tax deductions for bKVs, in order to increase growth in this sector.

He also added the changeover from a Pensionskasse to a bKV should be made easier.

"At the moment, a changeover is difficult and only possible for the whole company," Fichta explained.

"Single employees should get the ability to opt for an unbeaureaucratic switch during their active working life."

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