The COVID-19 crisis has put crisis management plans to the test, according to the chair of Austria’s pension fund association and director general of the country’s largest pension provider, VBV.

“We reduced or partially hedged our equity holdings before the last two extremely turbulent weeks so that we were not hit as hard by the drop in prices,” Andreas Zakostelsky, chair of the Association of Austrian Occupational Pensionfunds (Fachverband der Pensionskassen) and director general of VBV-Group told IPE.

VBV has always focused on business continuity management, Zakostelsky added.

“We have made the appropriate preparations, which are particularly important for the location and control of resources, in order to continue to ensure our customers a regular business process,” he said.

VBV relies on a “well-functioning crisis management team which, in coordination with the board, manages all resources efficiently, practically round-the-clock”. A great number of employees work currently from home and the investment team continues to operate.

Tough measures to halt the spread of the virus and initital proposals to reignite economic growth lead Zakostelsky towards “cautious optimism, in addition to the uncertainty, which is of course still in the room”.

Zakostelsky, who also served as a member of Austria’s parliament for the centre-right ÖVP from 2013-17, continued: “A very differentiated approach is required in equity management; the measures of the central bank should have a stabilising effect on bond prices.”

At the same time, quick structural changes will take place during the crisis, but the impact in the medium-term cannot yet be estimated.

“VBV and the entire sector of pension funds and Vorsorgekassen [severance pay funds] in Austria are very stable,” Zakostelsky added.

Separately, the death has been reported of Fritz Janda, who served as managing director of Austria’s pension fund association, Fachverband der Pensionskassen, since 1993. Janda died earlier today, according to a statement issued by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.