SWITZERLAND - The Swiss subsidiary of SAP Group is reducing the buffers in its Pensionskasse and will allow its members participate directly in capital markets.

To date, SAP has paid more into the CHF200m (€145m) pension fund than its 640 members.

From now, however, employer contributions will no longer be guaranteed to be greater than employee contributions, but rather subject to the fund's performance.

Marc Beuggert, retirement specialist at consultancy VZ Vermögenszentrum, told IPE: "The only difference to traditional systems is that we will stop from accruing huge reserves and thereby withholding returns from our members."

SAP has developed the new Pensionskassen strategy with the VZ Vermögenszetrum, and Beuggert noted that one other pension fund was using the new model as well.

He stressed that the mandatory pension payments, as well as all contributions matched by the employee, would remain guaranteed.

"It would not be possible to change that under Swiss law," he added.

But the Swiss pension fund association ASIP has criticised the new model, comparing it with US 401k plans.

But Beuggert said: "This is completely different because, with 401k plans, members also have to choose an asset allocation, while at SAP the asset allocation is chosen by experts and is the same for all members."

The ASIP has also argued that the model would lead to an individualisation of retirement provision, which it said should not be part of the second pillar.

Beuggert conceded the point, but said that this was only true for a small part of the contributions to the SAP Pensionskasse, which returned 3.3% in the first half.

Meanwhile, the conference of Swiss supervisory authorities has published official figures on the funding levels of more than 3,200 pension funds.

The authorities said the situation had improved, but that the "all-clear could not be given yet".

In total, 11.9% of the funds, including 90 public pension funds, remain underfunded compared with 30% last year. Of those, 2% have a funding level below 90%.

Swisscanto recently calculated an average 98.7% funding level for Pensionskassen in its survey.

The conference pointed out that only in exceptional cases did the supervisor have to take measures to counteract unlawful recovery measures.

In other news, the pension fund for the city of Zurich (PKZH) - not to be confused with the pension fund for the canton of the same name (BVK) - will get new additions to its members.

The Pensionskasse for the concert hall and the theatre in Zurich will be integrated into the PKZH, as administration costs were soaring at the very small funds.

In total, 410 members with CHF170m in assets will be transferred from the two funds to the PKZH from January for reasons of efficiency.