Europe Takes Pension Concerns to Government

The fight against Solvency II is taken to politicians in an attempt to gain more ground.

(March 26, 2012)  —  Some of the largest organisations representing employees, staff, and pension funds are to air their concerns over potential new Europe-wide regulation they claim could de-rail the retirement benefit system to United Kingdom Parliament today.

The European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP) is to be joined by the UK’s National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), presenting at the House of Commons this afternoon to highlight their worries about regulation.

There are currently two main European Union policy initiatives taking place that involve pensions: the White Paper on Pensions and the proposal to revise the Institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP) Directive.

Although there is a close link between these two initiatives, they follow two separate tracks – the main sticking point is the current stance that pension funds may be forced to adhere to Solvency II, a capital-based regulation that was originally intended for insurance companies.

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Earlier this month, European Commissioner Michel Barnier sought to reassure pension funds that they would not be made to implement Solvency II in a ‘copy and paste’ method from the insurance industry guidelines.

However, accounting firm Deloitte published a survey today showing the average FTSE100 company would see its pension liabilities rise between £1 billion to £2.5 billion, should the Solvency II framework be enforced on retirement schemes.

The EFRP published a paper on its concerns ahead of today’s meeting. It said the group supported most of the initiatives in the white paper, but was very concerned about the revision of the IORP Directive.

It said: “In the White Paper, the European Commission acknowledges the importance of supplementary pension schemes. Yet, in its call for Advice to the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), which preceded the revision process of the IORP Directive, the European Commission proposes harmonised capital requirements for work-based pension funds, with a strong focus on a high level of short-term security. This proposal could significantly harm the supply of future occupational pensions.”

The EFRP said it had invited the European Commission to align the IORP revision and the white paper on Pensions and to re-think the entire revision process with a view to pursuing the security of pensions from a “holistic” or all-encompassing approach, focusing on with adequacy and sustainability.

The organisations will meet the Work and Pensions Committee of the House of Commons on EU pension policy at 4.30pm in London today.