SWITZERLAND - Swisscanto has defended its figures on funding levels of Swiss Pensionskassen, saying divergences with official stats can be explained by differing samples and methods.

Last year, after the presentation of the last Swisscanto Pensionskassen survey, the Swiss media accused the asset manager of creating panic after publishing figures suggesting 60% of all pension funds were underfunded - approximately twice the amount calculated using official statistics.

At the presentation of this year's survey in Zurich, Gerard Fischer, chief executive of Swisscanto, pointed out that while the company's sample only comprised 15% of all Pensionskassen included in official statistics, the covered amount of assets was almost 50% of the total.

The difference was, therefore, down to the large number of small Pensionskassen included in the official statistics, Fischer said.

As for the current survey, which canvassed more than 280 Pensionskassen, Swisscanto found 2009 funding levels improved from 92% at year-end 2008 to 97.8% 12 months later following the stock market recovery.

"But given the target buffers and the high conversion rate," Fischer said, "this figure shows Pensionskassen are nowhere near the funding level they had at end-2007."

In total, one-third of participating private Pensionskassen and one-third of public funds remained underfunded.

Of the one-third of funds that adapted their strategic asset allocation during 2009, most underweighted domestic equities (60%) and alternatives (40%).

Asked what they changed in their tactical asset allocation, 49% of public and 29% of private funds said they used the stock market downturn in the first quarter 2009 to purchase equities.