The Dutch pension fund for companies in the wholesale and recycling sectors, Pensioenfonds Nederlandse Groothandel, will not make the switch to the new defined contribution (DC) system. Instead, it will give all 30,000 members a choice whether to convert their defined benefit (DB) accruals to DC.

The wholesalers’ fund is the first pension scheme to announce it will grant individual choice to its members. Many employers have joined the fund on a voluntary basis, and therefore have to all agree individually whether they want to convert DB accruals to DC, said fund director Pieter Langereis.

No unanimity

He added: “You would see that some of the employers want to stay in DB and some want to move to DC, but there would not be a unanimous decision about making the transition. Whatever decision we were to take, a group would always be left dissatisfied.”

The new Pension Act stipulates that pensions will in principle be converted to DC, unless there are strong reasons not to do so.

The wholesalers’ fund therefore has chosen not to send a transition request to regulator DNB, but to instead move the accruals of those members that agree to a DC conversion to the fund’s current DC arrangement, where most accruals have been going since last year, in order to meet legal requirements.

At a later date, the pension fund could then move its (new) DC capital to a new DC arrangement that is in line with the Pension Act. Currently, the pension fund has some €250m in DB pensions and €23m in DC.

As a consequence, pensions will remain in DB if members do not report a choice. By choosing this route, the board wants to limit legal risks, said Langereis, adding: “We want to avoid lawsuits from companies or participants who don’t agree with their pensions being moved to DC.”


The fund does face a communication challenge, however. According to Langereis, the fund will explain to participants “as best as we can” what the two choices mean for their pensions. But will everyone understand? “This is a tricky issue,” Langereis admited. “Possibly they won’t. But if a participant doesn’t understand it, or doesn’t find it interesting, for him or her everything will stay the same.”

It is likely that most participants will simply stay in the fund’s DB arrangement as this will be the default choice. “I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing,” Langereis said. “I think you should leave the choice to participants.”

The positions of the wholesalers fund seems closely aligned with the idea of actuary turned politician Agnes Joseph to make it in principle impossible to move DB accruals to a DC system without explicit consent of members.

Joseph has been a member of parliament for new political party NSC since November 2023, and has since been advocating a revision of the ongoing pension reform.

IPE asked Joseph for a response to the wholesalers’ fund decision to require individual consent from members for a conversion of DB accruals to DC, but she did not respond by publishing time.

This article was first published on Pensioen Pro, IPE’s Dutch sister publication. It was translated and adapted for IPE by Tjibbe Hoekstra