SWITZERLAND - Gino Pfister has stepped down as director of the Novartis pension fund, one of Switzerland's biggest with CHF14.6bn (€8.6bn) in assets.

The retiring Pfister was succeeded by Markus Moser, former deputy managing director at the Basel-based fund, on July 1.

The firm made no earlier announcement as Moser has been working closely together with Pfister for the last five years - hence no wider introduction was necessary, according to the new director.

In June, shortly before Pfister left, the fund reported a return of 6.2% for 2005, which was well below the 11% average for other Swiss schemes, due to an investment strategy "aimed at maintaining value" the fund explained at the time.