The status of Denmark’s mighty pensions institution ATP has come under attack again, with the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises lobby saying a new survey shows few Danes oppose a liberalisation of the first pillar scheme it runs.

Kasper Munk Rasmussen, senior political consultant at SMVDanmark (SMEDenmark), told IPE: “We have carried out an opinion poll which shows that three times as many Danes believe that it would be a good idea to control the ATP money yourself, compared to the number who think it is a bad idea.”

He said that in the survey done by market research firm Norstat on behalf of the association, 44% of the 1,001 respondents said the notion of Danish people deciding for themselves which provider managed their ATP savings was a good or very good idea, compared to 14% opposing it, with the rest taking no position on the question.

Munk Rasmussen said the background for commissioning the poll was that ATP was “once again suffering heavy losses”.

ATP is a large, arms-length state institution which is the sole manager of the ATP mandatory population-wide labour market supplementary pension scheme.

In 2022, ATP ended with a 40.9% loss on its geared investment portfolio, and the portfolio has made further losses in the first nine months of 2023.

“When only one in seven Danes is against a liberalisation of ATP, while almost half are in favour, it says something about how little support the institution has among the population,” Munk Rasmussen said.

“ATP is a relic from the past,” he told IPE.

“Basically, it is a sound principle that you, as a Dane, can place your pension funds yourself – it provides competition in the pension market to deliver returns,” he said.

SMVDanmark also saw potential for pensions money to support entrepreneurship in Denmark, he said, claiming ATP had refused to invest in entrepreneurs.

“We would like to see more transparency in the pension market, so that you can, for example, invest part of the funds in a pension fund that invests in entrepreneurs in Denmark.

“It is in line with an initiative from the VK [Liberal Party, Moderate Party] government’s growth agreement of 2017, which never came to fruition,” he added.

Early this year, two high-profile academics in Copenhagen concluded ATP’s business model took much risk for too little return – an opinion rejected by ATP’s chief investment officer.

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