Dutch pensions providers and asset managers are facing an enormous challenge if the country’s pensions system is to be based on individual pensions accrual with extensive risk-sharing, a strategic policy adviser of the €417bn asset manager APG has suggested.

Speaking during a conference in Amsterdam organised by IRR, Jurre de Haan, said this alternative was nevertheless “very interesting” as an option to replace the defined benefit system in the Netherlands.

De Haan, who also advised the Social and Economic Council (SER), which examined the individual account variant as the basis for a future system, emphasised however that the feasibility would depend on political decisions and support from the employers and workers.

Among unions there is still significant resistance against a transition to a defined contribution-based system.

The advisor pointed out the asset managers would have to switch from a uniform investment policy to a lifecycle-based system, which also needed to be designed.

In addition, both shape and duration of the interest hedge would need to be changed, “as young participants wouldn’t need an extensive cover in the new pensions contract,” De Haan explained.

“Providers also need to adjust their administration from the current rights-based system to individual pensions accrual.”

He added that a different kind of pensions contract would also require new asset-liability management studies.

In his opinion, however, the most important challenge would be to explain to pension fund participants what the transition to a new system, as well as the principle of individual pensions accrual, means to them.

“Also, in a system of individual pensions accrual, we need to continue communicating in terms of benefits in order to keep things comprehensible,” he stressed.

The challenges for the providers would come on top of the legal hurdles that need to be addressed in order for the SER variant to work.

“Merging existing pension rights into the new system must be legally underpinned, and the same goes for the abolition of the average pensions accrual and contributions,” said the adviser.

During a discussion at the seminar, the attention was also drawn to the importance of independent advice for participants, who would be offered options for pensions accrual.

Currently, the SER, the Pensions Federation and the Labour Foundation (StAR) are assessing the social and economic aspects of a transition of the current pensions plans to a new system.

Last week, Jetta Klijnsma, state secretary for social affairs, announced that she would present a memorandum to the Dutch parliament with an assessment of the various alternatives, including the SER variant, before August.

A new pensions system is expected to be implemented within the four-year term of the next government, following next March’s general election.