Unilever’s general pension fund (APF) has won the golden Pensioen Pro Award for the Best Dutch Pension Fund of 2017.

A jury of pension selected the Unilever APF from a shortlist of three candidates, after 1,628 experts had cast their votes.

Rob Kragten, the scheme’s chief executive, received the award last week from Hamadi Zaghdoudi of Willis Towers Watson, during the annual congress of IPE’s Dutch sister publication Pensioen Pro in Amsterdam last week.

The event was attended by 330 representatives from the sector.

Unilever closed its defined benefit (DB) scheme Progress to new entrants in 2015, when it placed pensions accrual in a new collective defined contribution pension fund, Forward.

Earlier this year, both schemes joined the new APF, enabling them to operate with one asset manager and under a single board.

In the opinon of the jury, this was a significant step towards a ‘future-proof’ plan.

Jetta Klijnsma, state secretary for social affairs, won the award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Sector, because of innovations introduced under her watch. These included the new financial assessment framework (nFTK), the introduction of the APF, and legislation to improve governance and communication.

The jury also credited Klijnsma with the nationwide dialogue concerning the update of the pensions system.

The Unilever APF was also awarded the Innovation prize, while the sector scheme for the hospitality industry (Horeca & Catering) was awarded for its customer service.

The ESG Award went to the €45bn metal scheme PME. The small Calpam pension fund won the awards for Best Investment Policy and Best Long-term Investment, as well as the silver award for Best Small Pension Fund.

The bronze awards for best strategies for equity, bonds, and property were bagged by BPL Pensioen (the former sector scheme for agriculture), Pensioenfonds TNT Express, and the occupational pension fund for general practitioners (SPH), respectively.

The industry-wide pension fund for building materials (HiBiN) won the prize for best medium-sized scheme, while the Unilever APF was also awarded silver for Best Large Pension Fund.

The sector pension fund for painters and decorators (Schilders) won the award for best funding improvement. Its coverage ratio increased from 94.2% in June last year to 109.8% at March-end.