Nearly 400,000 employees in the Netherlands had accrued a pension through one of the country’s specialist low-cost defined contribution (DC) vehicles by the end of Q2 this year, which is 21% more than a year before.

The capital invested through the vehicles, known as PPIs, grew by 35% in the same period to €7.5bn.

The figures can be deduced from data released by pensions regulator DNB, which has been publishing data on PPI members since the second quarter of 2017.

As at the end of June this year, there were 391,000 PPI members, as opposed to 324,000 the year before. The number of deferred members grew by 43% in the same period, from 181,000 to 259,000 members.

By comparison, pension funds in the Netherlands have more than 5 million active members and 9.5 million deferred members in total. These numbers are from the end of 2016, with the 2017 data expected to be published by DNB later this month. The number of members of a pension fund shows a downward trend, in contrast to the number of members in a PPI.

Capital invested through PPIs is also growing, even though this is now levelling off: from 173% in 2014 and 156% in 2015 to 35% in 2018, via 118% in 2016 and 52% in 2017. These figures relate to the capital invested at members’ risk in Q2, compared with the year before.

PPI growth slower than APFs

In research published earlier this week Dutch banking group Rabobank noted that PPIs were growing more slowly than the newer general pension fund vehicle, known as an APF.

According to the bank this reflected the fact that PPIs almost exclusively derive their growth from new contracts. The premium for DC contracts is generally lower than for defined benefit contracts.

Rabobank said it expected that three or four of the current seven low-cost DC vehicles would eventually disappear.

One reason was a constant pressure to keep costs low, according to author’s findings. The bank expected that smaller providers would ultimately lose this battle and stop their activities.

Another reason for the decrease in the number of PPIs, according to the research, was the consolidation among insurers, such as via the merger of NN and Delta Lloyd. The PPIs of both insurers have (legally) fused, while the bank presumed a possible takeover of Vivat could lead to further consolidation.

The research cited competition with pension funds as a third explanation, as they increasingly also entered the DC market.

The predictions by Rabobank are much more optimistic – and according to the PPIs much more realistic – than those of research agency GfK, which predicted a few months ago that PPIs would have disappeared entirely by 2025.