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ABP board sees pan-Europe potential

NETHERLANDS - The board of Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP, the €201bn Dutch civil service pension fund, sees opportunities for European cross-border activities, pensions director Jaap Maassen says.

"Our Dutch three-pillar system could be an excellent base," Maassen said in an interview in ABP magazine Wereld.

"This because of the strength in its coherence, with the pay-as-you-go state pension, capital-funded pension funds, and additional individual savings tuned to personal possibilities and needs," Maassen said in an interview in ABP magazine Wereld.

"ABP is more than equipped to deal with individual requests of its participants for going European," Maassen added, whilst stressing that the board still needs to take a decision.

Maassen, who is also chairman of the European Federation for Retirement Provision, referred to workers in the 10 new EU member states.

"They have been disappointed by solidarity and collectivity in the past, and like their new pension arrangements to be as individual as possible. But our collective systems are up to 50% cheaper."

"The Dutch ABP pension will be reinforced, if international participants join," Maassen replied, when asked whether the ABP board doesn't have the task to guarantee a proper pension for the present population.

There will be a limited number of large pension scheme left in Europe, Maassen predicted. "If ABP doesn't join this development, its existence will come-up for discussion. We will lose our market share fast, and our low-cost service will come under pressure," he explained.

"The borders are wide open, and developments are happening fast. Multinationals like Unilever, ABN Amro, IBM and Shell are already working on pan-European clusters."

According to Maassen, the Netherlands will also benefit from a solid pension system abroad. "It could work-out badly for our economic situation, if surrounding countries have considerably worse pensions," he made clear.

ABP's chairman Elco Brinkman confirmed the boards' interest in selling pension products abroad. "We will take a decision during the coming months, because other pension funds are already orientating themselves as well," he said.

According to Brinkman, ABP is getting requests for advice from all over Europe. "And there are civil servants everywhere of course. However, cross-border activities shouldn't be at the expense of the services to our present members," he stressed.

"Propagating the excellent Dutch system abroad is also important, in order to avoid that it will be sucked downward into a grey European average," the chairman added.

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