Per Bolund, Sweden’s financial markets minister, has defended the salaries paid to staff at the country’s national pension funds — the AP Funds — saying they do not deviate in any major way from policy.

Responding to a written question from Ulla Andersson, a member of the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) who belongs to the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet), Bolund said: “It is the boards of the AP funds that decide on guidelines for remuneration to senior executives in the funds, but these must be consistent with the guidelines adopted by the government.”

Later in his reply, he said: “The auditors’ audit for the fiscal year 2018, as in previous years, only shows minor deviations from these guidelines.”

These deviations related to longer notice periods stated in the guidelines, he said, which originated from the time before the guidelines were established.

Andersson’s original question to Bolund was: “Is the State Council prepared to review the guidelines that form the basis for salaries and remuneration within the AP funds?”

She said that while people in Sweden were getting stuck with pensions that were difficult to live on despite a long working life, people managing the pensions money in the AP funds had wages that ordinary people could not even dream of.

“The AP funds manage large pension assets and must be skilled at it, but that does not mean that they should have salaries and benefits that are fundamentally different from society at large,” she said, adding that this undermined confidence in the state authorities and society as a whole.

“In the various AP funds, heads of asset management and equities chiefs often have monthly salaries almost equivalent to an annual salary for a worker, and funds’ chief executives earn considerably more than that,” Andersson wrote.

The prime minister of Sweden was paid less than half of the highest earning chief executive’s salary in the AP funds, she said.

“It is unreasonable that wages and remuneration in the AP funds deviate so much from the rest of society,” she said.

Minister stresses need for cost efficiency

In his response, Bolund said the government’s guidelines on remuneration at the funds showed that the total remuneration to senior executives had to be reasonable and well-balanced.

“It should also be competitive, capped and appropriate, and contribute to good ethics and organisational culture,” he said.

But Bolund also said that the role of administrator of state pension resources carried with it the requirement that the AP Funds had the trust of the general public. Remuneration conditions for the funds’ leaders were very significant in this regard, he said.

“It is important that the AP funds continually work towards a high level of cost efficiency in their business,” he wrote.