SWITZERLAND - Funding and recovery measures for Swiss pension funds will be top priorities for the country's new supervisory body, the Oberaufsichtskommission.
Manfred Hüsler, director at the new regulator, told delegates at this year's Swiss pension fund fair 'Fachmesse 2. Säule' that public pension funds setting out to achieve full funding must present the supervisor with a recovery plan by year-end 2013 and reach 100% funding within the next 10 years.
He added that the supervisor would put out an official statement on the topic "soon" and claimed there had been a misunderstanding over whether pension funds had to achieve full funding by next year.
But Hüsler also acknowledged that, with respect to public pension funds, "many questions were still open".
Under current legal practice - which has been contested in court - pension funds can only lower the interest paid on members' assets below the legal minimum rate if the schemes' are underfunded.
But Hüsler also said the Oberaufsichtskommission was considering allowing pension funds to reduce interest on members' assets, even when schemes were fully funded.
Another top priority for the Oberaufsichtskommission will be to regulate governance structures at the new regional supervisory bodies, which are now independent of cantonal governments, although Hüsler pointed out that this separation had not yet occurred at all nine bodies.
He added that there would soon be eight instead of nine regional supervisors, as Aargau and Solothurn are to be merged.
Hüsler said increasing the cost transparency of products for Pensionskassen would be a longer-term project.
"This is definitely an area where something needs to happen, but we do not want to increase the costs and efforts for Pensionskassen - instead, the providers will have to provide this information," he said.
"I do not think it is a valid argument to say that Pensionskassen are free to change a manager if they do not like the fee structure or the performance because, especially in the alternative asset area, they often make long-term commitments."
For an in-depth look at the Swiss pensions system, see the June issue of IPE magazine.