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New Dutch body to pool financial strength

NETHERLANDS - The Netherlands wants to promote the country as a financial centre by creating a new agency which will also focus on exporting pensions knowledge.

The finance ministry has suggested a centre of excellence will be headed by Arthur Docters van Leeuwen, chairman of the financial supervisor AFM.

While no further details on the structure or tasks have been revealed industry experts have welcomed the plan.

Roderick Munsters, chief investment officer of the €12bn Dutch pension giant ABP, hailed it as an excellent idea.

He argues the Dutch have a mixed track record when in promoting themselves.

"We have paid too little attention to the marketing of our own talent and our infrastructure, and its sale," he told IPE at a conference of the Belgian association of pension fund (BVPI) in Brussels today.

"The investment fund industry, which has left for Luxembourg, is a good example," he added.

Munsters said he also recognises the pressure Belgium is currently placing on the Dutch pension industry and understands why some might see it as a threat, but suggests competition can never be a bad thing.

Peter Kraneveld, former head of international affairs at the €83bn PGGM pension fund also thinks a centre of excellence is "badly needed".

"It is actually too bad that this foundation comes so late, as some banks have decamped to Luxembourg already," he argued, but adding it is "better late than never".

However, Kranveld fears the new initiative might not give enough space to much needed fresh ideas, arguing there are many established interests.

In a debate about the new body, Dick Sluimers, chairman at ABP and one of the proposed members of the board at the new agency, suggested all pension fund umbrella organisations should be brought together under one roof.

Peter Borgdorff, head of VB, supported the idea, pointing out his pension fund organisation had made similar suggestions over the last six years.

He explained to IPE all three organisations - VB, UvB and OPF - are already working together closely but that a joint office might make life easier.

"Combining our strengths is important," he said.

According to Borgdorff, the suggestion also includes bringing the pension training institute SPO and the pension ombudsman into the same building to facilitate the promotion of Dutch pension knowledge outside the country.

"It is a good idea to see whether more things can be shared, while not having to merge, as this is a very sensitive topic for many," Munsters commented.

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