Almost all administrative staff for the three largest Dutch pension funds are now working at home, using both telephone and video call systems to keep connected.
They said they largely managed to continue working as usual, but noted that face-to-face communication between colleagues was a more pleasant way of operating.
“It is by and large business as usual,” said Ria van der Steen, spokeswoman for PMT, the €80bn pension fund for the metal and mechanical engineering sector.
She said that she and her 23 colleagues on the fund’s administrative team, as well as its 16 pension consultants. used the programme Microsoft Teams, which enables staff to easily share documents, for example.
Van der Steen, however, said experience had shown that a strict discipline was crucial for people taking part in conference calls.
According to Ellen Habermehl, spokeswoman for the €238bn healthcare scheme PFZW, working at home had hardly posed any practical problems for the 20-strong team.
She said PFZW’s unit also used Microsoft Teams, and already did so before the COVID-19 outbreak had forced people to working remotely.
However, Habermehl said not all staff liked the absence of personal contact.
She said the pension fund and PGGM, its asset manager and pensions provider, had the same policy in place. Approximately 100 of PGGM’s 1,400 staff are still working in the office in Zeist, where they now have sufficient space for keeping the required safe distance, according to the spokeswoman.
Jos van Dijk, spokeswoman for the €465bn civil service pension fund ABP, said that each of the scheme’s two offices had no more than two people working there, while the others were operating from home.
She indicated that meetings, including board meetings, were going ahead as scheduled, and that most are conducted by telephone or video link.
ABP’s IT infrastructure enabled staff to obtain and share all necessary data and documents, Van Dijk added.
According to ABP, 95% of the staff of the pension fund’s asset manager and pensions provider APG, also worked remotely.
All pension funds noted that a surprisingly low number of participants had made inquiries about the prospects of their pensions as a consequence of collapsing funding ratios.
Van der Steen said PMT had received approximately 10 questions last week. No more than 25 of PFZW’s 645,000 pensioners had made inquiries about their benefits in the same period, said the healthcare scheme. Usually, it receives hundreds of questions about all sorts of pension matters each day.
All schemes attributed the limited number of questions to participants and pensioners having more urgent issues on their mind at the moment.
“We expect more questions when the current situation might have become the new normal”
Jos van Dijk, spokeswoman for ABP
“We expect more questions when the current situation might have become the new normal,” said ABP’s Van Dijk.
The pension funds’ main message is that benefits nor contributions will be affected this year, as their funding ratio at year-end is the criterion for possible rights cuts in 2021.
Van der Steen said that, in addition to information on its website, PMT also informs its participants about its financial position through its regular newsletter.
PFZW said it also used social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to get its message across. Peter Borgdorff, the pension fund’s director, also addresses topical issues in a weekly blog.