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EIOPA calls for new powers to create pan-European personal pensions

Gabriel Bernardino, chairman of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), today called for new powers to create a supervisory regime for Pan-European Personal Pension (PEPPs) products with collective risk-sharing characteristics.

Boosting investment in personal pensions is a policy objective of the keystone Capital Markets Union (CMU) policy of the Juncker Commission, which aims to boost investment in areas like infrastructure and SME lending, and is seen as a way to boost Europe’s pension savings gap.

Bernardino called for the CMU project to prioritise supervisory convergence to boost cross-border PEPP provision and ensure consistent quality of supervision between EU member states.

“The evolution of the PEPP needs to be accompanied with an evolution in the powers and tools available to EIOPA,” the chairman told the supervisor’s annual conference in Frankfurt this morning.

“This should entail an appropriate mix of centralised powers and tools and a clear mandate to reinforce supervisory convergence.”

Bernardino said insurance providers following a standard design template for such “profit-sharing” PEPP products could receive more favourable regulatory treatment.

“Provided that, by design, these collective profit-sharing products avoid the exposure to short-term market volatility, the regulatory treatment in Solvency II could be aligned to the risks effectively incurred, resulting possibly in lower capital requirements,” he said.

He also reiterated the supervisor’s proposals for a hands-on policy for the creation of PEPPs.

In February, EIOPA favoured a parallel, so-called second-regime approach for PEPPs and advised the Commission to adopt standardised information provision, standard investment choices, regulated but flexible charge caps, and flexible biometric and guarantee options as part of its technical advice.

However, a Commission consultation exercise, launched in July and which closes at the end of October, presented four options, including enhanced co-operation between EU member states, creating a new product similar to a US individual retirement account (IRA), a voluntary approach based on common features and outright harmonisation.

Martin Merlin, director in the Commission’s directorate general for financial services and the capital markets union, said it was too early to say whether there would be draft legislation on PEPPs but indicated that a decision was expected in the first half of 2017.

Merlin acknowledged the hurdle of taxation and said the Commission had a study underway.

“One possibility is to see to it that a new potential European pension product gets at least the same treatment that national products get, so that the European product is not disadvantaged against national products,” he said.

Bernardino said the supervisory approach developed for collective risk-sharing PEPPs could be applied to defined contribution occupational schemes.

“A further important step would be the design of a simple and transparent second regime for defined contribution occupational pension schemes,” he said, adding that such a framework could provide a cross-border platform for multinational sponsors.

The chairman also acknowledged the need to make the CMU tangible for European consumers and said PEPPs could be part of this process.

But he conceded that trust in personal pensions was lacking in many countries and said many products were sub-optimal in investment design and in scale.

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