The Dutch pension funds forced to find new pensions administrators following Syntrus Achmea’s shock decision to stop providing services to industry-wide schemes are concerned they now face serious obstacles in finding replacements.

Several pension funds have lamented their poor negotiation positions, while others have expressed doubts that the market will be able to accommodate a significant number of large pension funds within a short space of time.

Last week, Syntrus Achmea, after its new IT system failed to cope with the diversity of various pension plans, announced that it planned to transfer the last of its 15 remaining industry-wide pension funds by early 2019.

René Lahoye, employee chair at Kappers, the €664m pension fund for hairdressers, said: “We now have to knock on the doors of other providers.”

Henk van der Meer, chair at Tandtechniek, the €693m pension fund for dental technicians, said the options for schemes seeking new providers would be limited.

“Blue Sky Group doesn’t have experience with sector schemes,” he said. “We wonder whether AZL has sufficient capacity, and small provider AGH has taken on some large clients recently.”

He said he also had reservations about TKP Pensioen’s service and MN preparedness.

John Klijn, chairman at VLEP, a €2.2bn industry-wide scheme, said Syntrus Achmea’s proposed two-year transfer period was probably too short.

“The company, however, has a responsibility to provide, so we assume it won’t just kick us out,” he said. 

Lahoye said Kappers feared it would face a significant problem soon, as Syntrus Achmea announced it would stop running the older IT system from 1 January 2018.

The hairdresser scheme is still using the system, along with seven other industry-wide funds, as it lacked confidence in the new system, Lahoye said.

Both Klijn and Lahoye said they had seen signs that Syntrus Achmea, even ahead of last week’s announcement, had been focusing increasingly on its subsidiary Centraal Beheer’s new general pension fund (APF).

Lahoye said he had been surprised by the provider’s decision on industry-wide schemes, “as its director Tom van der Spek had reassured us only three weeks ago that there would be continuity”.

The chairs of Tandtechniek and VLEP said their schemes had complaints about Syntrus Achmea’s service, but Lahoye said Kappers had been satisfied and prepared to renew its contract.

VLEP’s chair Klijn emphasised that the provider had paid ample attention to problems.

“We had the impression, however, that Syntrus Achmea could not always keep up with developments,” he said.

The boards of VLEP and Kappers are to meet at short notice to discuss the way forward.

Tandtechniek had already begun looking for a large merger partner after Syntrus Achmea made clear the pension fund was not profitable for the provider, its chairman said.