EUROPE - Koen De Ryck, who died age 66 last week, has been hailed by former colleagues for his hard work in establishing the European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP) as a powerful lobbying group on the continent.
Former EFRP chairman Alan Broxson, now executive chairman of the Irish Pensions Trust, said De Ryck was the driving force behind the establishment of the European group.
"Prior to [Koen's arrival], EFRP had no real presence in the European community, and we needed a link to be able to make contact with all the people who were relevant to pensions in the European community and in Brussels," he said.
"Koen was hugely instrumental in getting us in front of so many people."
Karel Stroobants, independent director of the metalworkers pension fund in Belgium, worked with De Ryck when he first started at VKG/CPM (now Amonis) - Belgium's pension fund for doctors, dentists and pharmacists - more than 20 years ago.
"He was my teacher in the pension fund business," Stroobants said.
"When I started at that job, I didn't know anything about asset managers or portfolios, so it was all new."
Anton van Nunen, often credited with the creation of the fiduciary management system, echoed this sentiment.
"He turned out to be a real teacher to me with respect to the differences between systems across countries, in how to get the pension message across to politicians," he said.
De Ryck worked as a consultant across Europe and spent many years at the Danish fund PKA with Peter Dencik, who was then deputy executive director, charged with appointing and monitoring the fund's external managers.
Dencik cites papers written for the OECD and the IMF on the pensions time bomb and the problems facing unfunded pension schemes as some of De Ryck's most important work, adding that he was one of the first to raise the issue.
He also highlighted that De Ryck saw it as a necessity to allow pension funds to break free of the more restrictive investment approach at the time, which had earmarked bonds as the main source of returns.
"Back in the '80s," he said, "there was a restriction on pension funds, especially in Scandinavia, and outside Netherlands and the UK, on how they could invest."
This belief in freedom of investment also led to De Ryck to become one of the advocates for change in Belgium, with Stroobants crediting him with the introduction of the multi-asset management model that now prevails in the country.
Stroobants added that his former colleague was known almost everywhere.
"He was very highly regarded also in Denmark, in Holland, in Great Britain, in France - I think he knew almost everybody."
Eberhard Cleff, the former chief executive of the Wacker Chiemie Pensionskasse in Germany, said De Ryck had a demanding personality, but was always there for the industry.
"Koen resembled an evergreen tree of friendship, a rock-solid guardian of risk averse yet adaptive occupational pension funds," he said.
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