NETHERLANDS - The Dutch financial services sector could stimulate its international pensions position through the creation of cross-border asset-pooling vehicles based on existing mutual funds for joint accounts (FGRs), pension fund experts have argued.

According to a working group presenting advice to the new Holland Financial Centre, asset-pooling through the development of vehicles known as fonds voor gemene rekening (FGRs) - which have mutual fund structures similar to a Luxembourg SICAV and can hold pooled assets - would be a first step towards concentration of pension activities and increased employment in supporting services.

Within this study, authors argue the market and the government must join forces to raise the profile of the Netherlands as a ‘pensions champion'.

The report was produced by asset manager Robeco and law firm De Brauw, Blackstone Westbroek, in cooperation with the Dutch Treasury and pensions supervisor De Nederlandsche Bank, and sought the views of officials at large companies and pension funds.

In addition, the group said a study is needed to assess whether an alternative asset-pooling vehicle, such as a limited partnership (CV) - a firm with one or more silent partners who only contribute capital - should be created, to increase the attractiveness of the Dutch market for international market players.

These asset-pooling vehicles, as well as the Netherlands itself as pensions champion, should subsequently be promoted in a centrally-directed international marketing campaign, the committee stated.

A government-created central body should then provide the market information on services and transparency, it added.

The working group urged the government to quickly introduce the general pensions vehicle API for pan-European pension schemes. However, to raise its appeal to foreign players, the API should be left with the flexibility to decide on governance issues such as ownership and board design.

"Since it will be unattractive to foreign parties to meet the specific Dutch rules, prudential requirements should be set within an international perspective," it explained, adding the Netherlands should also focus on promoting its expertise on defined contribution schemes, asset-liability management and fiduciary management.

In the working group's opinion, some fiscal barriers, such as pension funds' VAT-liability on asset management services and pension provision services, should be removed.

Furthermore, the restitution frequency for dividend tax, and the number of international treaties on the position of pension funds, should be increased.

The Holland Financial Centre was created in July as an initiative of several players in the market sector, whose aim is to develop a strong Dutch financial and pensions sector