Apothekers Pensioen, the €2.1bn pension fund for independent pharmacists in the Netherlands, has asked its members to complete a survey about their preferences in the new pension system. The fund is the first professional pension fund to do so.

The pension fund asked more than 5,000 of its active, former and retired members that are also a member of the pension fund’s professional association – more than 90% of the fund’s total membership – to fill in a survey on their pension preferences.

The main goal of the exercise is to get an idea which of the two possible contract variants of the new defined contribution pension system are preferred by the members.

There’s a choice between the so-called new contract, which has a range of ‘solidarity’ elements including a ‘solidarity reserve’, and a lifecycle-based variant that comes closer to an individual pension arrangement.

For professional pension funds with a self-employed membership such as Apothekers Pensioen, it’s for the members to decide about the pension arrangement in the absence of trade unions and employers. “We need the input of our active members to make the right decisions on the new pension system,” said the fund’s president Mariëtte van de Lustgraaf-Wielens in a short film on the fund’s website.

A spokesperson for Apothekers Pensioen told IPE the survey asks both multiple choice and open questions on a range of topics: members are asked about their attitudes to solidarity between members; whether they require freedom of choice and what kind of investments they prefer.

Risk appetite

The survey will also aim to map the average risk appetite of members, which will be a requirement for all pension funds under the new pension law which is expected to fully come into force by 2026.

Specific questions on the preference for either of the two contract types will only be asked to the 2,300 active members of the fund.

The pension fund expects a “substantial response” to the survey, which was sent out last week and will be open until 2 May. It has already been completed by more than 500 members, according to the fund.

“There may be a group of members that have less affinity with pensions,” the spokesperson admitted. He added: “Nevertheless we expect many pharmacists to fill in the survey as they appreciate the importance of the topic and like to use their right of having their say.”

Apothekers Pensioen will use the results of the survey to make a provisional decision on the new pension arrangement, which will again be put to members in another survey by February 2022. The new pension arrangement is expected to become operational by 2024.

Verloskundigen, Loodsen, SPMS

Two other professional funds – the fund for midwives Verloskundigen and Loodsen, the fund for shipping pilots – want to move even quicker. Both funds told trade publication Pensioen Pro they want to make their choice for a new pension arrangement already this year.

Both funds will not ask their members to complete a survey on the topic but will use other means, including webinars and the funds’ AGMs, to inform and consult members.

The fund for medical specialists, SPMS, wants to take a provisional decision on the new pension arrangement by the end of 2021, its director Jacques van Dijken told Pensioen Pro. The fund will survey its members on the topic later this year, in a similar fashion as Apothekers Pensioen.

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