EUROPE - Customers of Denmark's FSP Pension have approved the pension scheme's proposed merger with AP Pension at the annual general meeting.

The DKK22bn (€10.3bn) lateral pension fund for financial sector employees said the AGM attendees - just under 300 people representing 3,424 votes, or 20% of the membership - voted unanimously in favour of joining forces with the larger scheme.

Lasse Norby, chairman of FSP's supervisory board, said: "In the current situation, where we are faced with a range of challenges, including those in the form of rising legislation and increased demands from authorities, there is no doubt the time is ripe for larger units in the pensions sector."

He described the merger as a decisive and correct step for FSP Pension and said he expected the link-up to lead to several benefits for customers.

"For our customers, the merger means they will have access to many new opportunities on the product side, and that we will be able to ensure lower costs for them," he said.

Under the proposed merger, the new DKK77bn joint fund will retain the AP Pension name.

The deal is due to be approved by AP Pension this week, but is still subject to regulatory approval.

In other news, profit at Nordea's life and pensions division rose by 14% year on year in the first quarter to €57m, with unit-linked products becoming more significant as profit drivers.

The Nordic banking group said profit from unit-linked products climbed by 35% in the first three months of 2012 against the same period in 2011, to €23m, while profit from traditional with-profits products fell by 32% to €13m.

In its interim report, Nordea said: "Unit-linked and pure risk products continued to increase in importance as main profit generators."

It said the unit's strategic focus on shifting the product portfolio towards capital-efficient products had continued in the first quarter, with 69% of total premiums now channelled into unit-linked, premium guarantee traditional or pure risk products.

In the traditional portfolios, financial buffers increased by €300m during the first quarter to €1.6bn, it said.

The total average investment return in these portfolios was 2.8%, a profit it said reflected strong asset liability management efforts on managing the buffers in a turbulent financial environment.

Lastly, Swedish banking group SEB reported a growing interest in occupational pensions at its life insurance division.

In its first quarter report, the group said: "The strategy to focus on the occupational pension market led to improved sales in this area.

"Advisory solutions for the occupational pension market will be developed further during the year."

Overall, operating profit at the life division increased by 6% in the first quarter from the same period in 2011, with unit-linked income - which represents 57% of total income and 83% of total sales - up by 9%.