Jeremy Woolfe: Through the glass, brightly

EIOPA offers a few tasty morsels on transparency, Jeremy Woolfe writes

When it came to the appetizer for the PensionsEurope ‘Making Pension Work’ annual conference in Brussels, surprise, surprise, there were no surprises. But there were tasty morsels on transparency.

Speaking at a reception the evening before the main conference, Fausto Parente, executive director at EIOPA, led with comments on IORPs (Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision). The need, he said, is to be realistic: “It will do harm if we pretend everything is fine and ignore the existing challenges.”

Parente then referred to his authority’s two important recent steps. First was its EU-wide stress test for occupational pensions, and second was its issuing of an opinion to the EU institutions on a common framework for risk assessment and transparency.

Appropriately, perhaps, he was speaking in the luxurious foyer, where the glass ceiling looked up to the sky, and where the floor beneath his feet was also glass. He was standing with his back to a wall, about three generous storeys high, also entirely made of glass panels. 

Parente pointed out EIOPA had already recommended that policymakers base their work on not hiding behind “jargon”. Funds should present information in a simple and standardised manner, he said. And there should be a common structure in place to help pension beneficiaries to compare different schemes when, for example, a worker wishes to change jobs.

No doubt, he would have been aware that, not far across town, IORP rules might just be in the final stages of clearing through the Brussels legislative machinery. It is regretful, Parente commented, that EIOPA’s work has shown that even pension supervisors – “too many of them”, he said – simply do not know what the operating costs of schemes come to. 

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