Where do consultancies see their business growing?
In Portugal, Thomas says quite a sizeable pensions consultancy market is likely to grow in the next few years, as the state’s role in pension provision is reduced and wealth moves from state control to the private sector. The details, however, are still unclear. “There is a lot of uncertainty,” he adds. “We don’t really know how social security will develop, but we believe the private sector will have a greater involvement.”
In Ireland, Glavin says the areas where business will increase are predominantly on the consultancy side. The offerings from investment institutions are becoming more sophisticated, both for clients and individuals, and this means there will be more help required in putting together strategies and then monitoring them.
“Also, with the growing influence of the EU on our daily lives and the types of directive that are coming out, clients tend to need a greater input from consultants,” he says, citing the European pensions directive.
And consultants are likely to be occupied on clients’ behalf considering the issue of scheme design. “There is a big question mark over what will be the best design going forward. Defined benefit is not best… but defined contribution is not necessarily the best either,” he says.
Ballendux says that in the Netherlands, it is becoming more prevalent for boards to look to investment consultants. “As far as we are concerned, that is not particularly driven by problems. The overall environment has become more difficult and challenging, and that has given rise to trustees looking for outside help. Maybe it’s made them look more carefully at the whole investment picture.
Mercer, he says, is being brought in not so much as a fire brigade, but as a fire prevention service.
The greatest single obstacle facing not just consultants, but the whole pensions industry is in gaining acceptance from the workforce for the need for professional pensions, he says.
Fernandes in London, sees increased business coming in as a result of the changeover to international accounting standards in 2005. Companies need advice on dealing with the implications of the change. The size of pension funds can be very large in relation to the overall size of a company, he says. “The small changes to the financial position will start to have a big impact on the company balance sheet,” he says.
Marchettini says the new Italian pensions legislation will lead to a significant amount of business for
pensions consultants. Employees will need help in making informed choices over the type of pension fund they should sign up for. One of the features of the new legislation is, he says, to allow employees covered by specific industrial sectors to choose between a sector or national category pension fund – for example Cometa for mechanical/engineering employees, or Fonchim for those in the chemicals industry – and an open fund, managed by a bank or insurance company, for example.
Employees facing this choice will need the expertise of a consultant to find out which option makes sense for them. Companies – which have a certain responsibility vis a vis their employees – will engage consultants to investigate the most appropriate fund to join.
If a company decides to make extra contributions on the behalf of younger employees, for example, because it perceives the need, here too, it will need advice on which is the most appropriate open fund to join.
In Sweden, business for pension consultants on the investment side is increasing dramatically, says Rentzhog. It’s all because of the losses some pension funds made last year, he says.