NETHERLANDS - After a lengthy evaluation process, the pension scheme of Vopak, storage provider for bulk liquids, has given a fiduciary mandate worth €500m to Black Rock.

The fund had a fiduciary partnership with Mn Services since December 2004, though a spokesman for Vopak Pensioenfonds explained "an evaluation of the relationship after three years had been planned at the start of the agreement".

Extensive discussions and additional analysis of investment returns have led to the decision to replace Mn Services as fiduciary manager, the pension fund said in an information bulletin to members.

"Black Rock distinguishes itself by the depth of its knowledge and experience in the area of asset management and shows this by its risk management process, its tools as well as its reporting," said the Vopak scheme.

According to the spokesman, the process of designing a future investment strategy will begin as soon as the transition - which started this month - has been completed.

The board of Vopak Pensioenfonds, in close cooperation with asset consultant Towers Perrin and the investment committee, evaluated the services provided by Mn Services in 2008.

A market study of suppliers of fiduciary services was also set up, including a review of 23 parties, and among which was Mn Services.  From this group, seven managers were then asked to provide a comprehensive offer and in a final stage, the board held discussions with the two remaining fiduciary managers.

This is just the latest fiduciary mandate appointment for BlackRock in the Netherlands, as pension fund TNO and the pension fund of financial regulator DNB chose for Black Rock as a fiduciary manager, alongside its recent global fiduciary mandate win of Henkel, headquartered in Germany. See earlier IPE story:

As with many other schemes, the financial position of Vopak Pensioenfonds has suffered in the financial crisis The scheme saw a negative investment return of 19% in 2008 as well as the sharp fall in interest rates, all of which caused its funding ratio to drop from 135% in 2007 to 97% by the end of last year.

Although 70% of the asset mix had been allocated to bonds, realising a positive return of 8.3% in 208,  equities lost 39.2%, commodities holdings fell 42.2% and real estate lost 16.9%, causing the whole investment return to be negative.

Measures to recover from the current funding shortfall include an extra contribution of €10m by parent company Vopak as well as a major increase in contributions from 17.5% to 30% of an individual's total salary.

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