EUROPE - The Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pension Supervisors (CEIOPS) has elected Thomas Steffen, Germany's top insurance regulator, as its new chairman, effective from March 12.

Steffen, head of insurance supervision at German financial services watchdog BaFin and previously vice chairman of CEIOPS, succeeds Henrik Bjerre-Nielsen, who is director general of BaFin's Danish counterpart, Finanstilsynet.

"The goal of my efforts will to be to see to it that the European Solvency II project is a success. In doing so, I will continue the work of my predecessor," Steffen said following his election as CEIOPS' new chairman.

Steffen, who joined the BaFin in 2002, backs the idea of applying Solvency II - a new capital adequacy regime for European insurers - to pension funds. This view is shared by Bjerre-Nielsen.

However, both regulators have acknowledged to IPE that their views do not command a majority on the EU level. "The views on Solvency II for pension funds are split down the middle between those who back the idea and those who don't," Steffen said during a BaFin news conference last May.

Last November, Bjerre-Nielsen also said he did not expect Solvency II for pension funds to be discussed before 2008 as the current focus is on applying the scheme to insurers.

But Steffen also said that regardless of what happens with Solvency II, "we would like to apply certain qualitative aspects of the regime to pension funds in Germany".

"What I mean by this is applying minimum requirements for risk management. They will be asked to identify, monitor and control risks," he told IPE last year.

Steffen holds degrees in law and economics from universities in Mainz and Dijon as well as the London School of Economics.