We advise (inter)national corporations on how to maintain a healthy balance between future costs, coverages and risks. In which process we focus on all legal/tax/actuarial/product/corporate issues.
Our goal is to provide high quality advice and create maximum added value for our client. Due to our international experience, we are used to handle challenging new situations with interest and care.
Our service is all inclusive. We do not just provide advice but function as projectmanager. We control all aspects of the process in time and prevent that aspects might not be optimized.
In this process we focus especially on:
- Clear Communications: we keep it simple
- Transparency and ease: our contribution to change
- Creativity: we like to be challenged
Finally we summarize complex situations by a brief conclusion with three best solutions to choose from.
A) Pension Consultancy
- Streamlining of pension plans due to merger/acquisition.
- Pension Due Diligence during merger/acquisition.
- Pension restructuring due to reporting requirements.
- Adjustment of pension schemes to new legislation.
- Restructuring of existing pension schemes due to new market situation.
Company Pension Fund
- Analyze and advice on the existence of a Company Pension Fund.
- Selection and negotiating related to new pension plan: DC versus PPI.
- Selection and negotiating related to additional (ANW) next of kin coverage.
- Selection and negotiating related to additional Net pension plan.
- Analyze and advice on disability issues and policy.
- Selection and negotiating related to WIA Gap and Excedent insurances.
- Selection and negotiating related to Non Attendance insurances.
B) Pension Law
- Legal position towards ‘mandatory’ scope of Branch Pension Funds.
- Governance and compliance issues at Pension Funds.
- Thus we are experienced in providing advice regarding Branch Pension Fund Stipp.
Internal Legal Issues
- Legal position of the Employees Counsel towards the Board.
- Legal position of (in)active participants regarding the indexation policy and its implementation by the employer.
- Legal issues due to resignation or divorce.
- Legal stipulation of pension and finance agreements.
External Legal Issues
- Prevent or otherwise solve legal issues with the Tax Authority and/or insurance companies.
Legal Issues towards Board/Expats
- Legal stipulation and/or adjustment of the in general custom expat and/or Board pension plans.
C) Pension Mediation
- The large interests and technical aspects can quickly create noise between the Board and employees.
- Due to our independence, we often act as mediator.
- It saves costs and the conflict model differs for the harmony model.
- After our objective analysis follow frank discussions with both parties.
- If our expertise is coupled with a sense of reality, a solution is more than expected within reach.
D) Pension Secondment of Staff
- In case your company prefers matters to be dealt with at once, we can second a pension jurist or consultant for project or interim management.
E) Pension Education
We provide approachable workshops:
- Board, H.R. and Finance
- Employees Counsel
- Agencies of Pension Funds
Workshop International Pensions
- Workshops Trends in International Pensions for HR
Details Company Training
For more details about our Company Training please visit: https://expatpensionholland.nl/company-training
F) News February 2022
The New Dutch Pension System
At the end of 2021, the draft bill for the Future of Pensions Act was published. It provides for a very substantial reform of especially the Dutch Occupational Pension System and consequently the pension scheme for your employees. (Besides this it also includes a reduction of the increase of the State Old Age Retirement Age and more pension build up options for entrepreneurs.)
Certain main aspects of the old system will remain in place:
- A system based on i.e. mandatory pension funds;
- A system in which there is a collective risk sharing between generations;
- A system which does no tintend to decrease the build up of occupational pension claims and thus does not intend to decrease the current tax benefits.
Thus one could say that while the collective system remains intact (for now), there will be a large switch to i.e. investment based pension claims in order to make the new system affordable and dependable.
It is as of yet unclear when this Act will be passed. In the meantime, you as an employer have a pension scheme for your employees that you may want to change in 2022. Thus you will be better placed to anticipate the reforms of the Dutch pension system.
Main Aspects Of The New Pensions Act
A) Only Defined Contribution Pension Plans
The current Pensions Act has three types of pension agreements:
- Defined Benefit (DB) agreements which provide totally guaranteed pension claims;
- Capital agreements which provide a guaranteed capital but not a guaranteed pension pay-out;
- Defined Contribution (DC) agreements which are totally investment based without any guarantee.
In the new pensions system, pension accrual is only possible on the basis of a Defined Contribution (DC) agreement meaning totally investment based. The consequence of this is that once the new Act becomes law, the parties can only agree on a pension scheme for the retirement pension in the form of a Defined Contribution (DC) agreement.
According to the Future of Pensions Act, all pension schemes concluded after 1 January 2022 must adopt an age independent flat rate pension contribution. The Act provides for a maximum age independent contribution of rounded 30%-33% of the pensionable wages.
Any Defined Contribution schemes concluded before this date contain an age dependent contribution and this can remain unchanged. These kind of Defined Contribution schemes are characterised by low pension contributions for relatively young employees and high contributions for relatively old employees. (Adjusting them to flat rate plans is not required as this would include a too high compensation for the elderly.)
B] Next of kin pension before retirement age
The Future of Pensions Act provides for a thorough reform of the partner’s pension. The most important element of this is the partner’s pension paid to the widow or widower if an employee dies before the relevant pension commencement date.
On this point, the new Act provides for a partner’s pension on a risk basis. This means that if the employee dies before the pension commencement date, in principle a partner’s pension is only paid out if the employee was still in your employment when he or she died.
The relevant new aspect is that the coverage is not any more linked and limited to the amount of years the employee will work until retirement age. Furthermore the coverage is not any more linked to the pensionable wages but to the actual annual gross wages which are higher.
C) Existing claims infused into the new system
Once the new Act has entered into force, from 2022 to 2026 a transitional phase towards the new pension system will apply.
Important here is whether the pensions accrued up to the moment the bill becomes law are converted into a Defined Contribution agreement. In pension terms, this conversion is referred to in Dutch as ‘invaren’.
Thus there will not be the situation of an old plan and the new plan but rather that the old claims are infused into the new plan. Participants who will have negative effects will be compensated.
D) Switch to new Plan
With regard to the above, employers are required to draw up a transition plan, which must in any case provide for choosing a Defined Contribution agreement, the way in which existing pension entitlements will be managed with ‘invaren’ as the starting point and agreements on obligatory and adequate compensation for employees.
How To Adjust Your Pension Plan In 2022?
- It is recommended taking stock of the options, sticking points and costs that you, as the employer, will be confronted with as a consequence of the Future of Pensions Act. This will enable you to anticipate the upcoming legislation by revising your pension plan in 2022.
- If you switch to a Defined Contribution scheme before 1 January 2022, according to the transitional scheme you do not need to make significant changes to this before the Future of Pensions Act enters into force. However, in that case you do need to arrange a separate pension scheme for employees you take on after 2026.
- You are obliged to compensate your employees if you change the pension scheme for your employees as a consequence of the Future of Pensions Act entering into force. This is not obligatory if you change your pension scheme before the Act enters into force. However, such a change does require the agreement of the works council and your employees.
- Are you required as an employer to participate in the basic pension scheme of a sectoral pension fund? In that case, usually you can change the supplementary pension scheme you have arranged with that pension fund or with another pension provider.
Most contracts between employers and pension providers for administering a pension scheme, what is known as the administration agreement, have a notice period of six months. If, for example, an administration agreement you have concluded is to end on 1 January 2022, you must give notice of termination before 1 July 2021 if you want to switch to a different pension provider and/or you want to make major changes to your pension scheme.
Corona Downsizing & Pension Claims
Not withstanding the fast and fine policy of several governments, many companies face incredible tough times. Such a shame that a client just informed us that they really have no choice but to downsize their great international staff which had just agreed with a corporate pension transition.
Instead of implementing it with much pleasure, we are forced to negotiate by video conference (…) about a correct solution for all parties involved. In a time where some insurance companies have a hard time providing usual service.
Let’s hope that the Corona Impact will only last several months and not one day longer!
New Kind Of Dutch Workplace Next Of Kin Coverage?
Currently the Unions and Employers are looking into the best manner to change the existing workplave next of kin coverage.
In the past this coverage was often Capital Based. Due to the related high costs, this has in general been replaced by Risk Based coverage. The amount is often 1,16% of the Pension Bases times the years from the start of employment until retirement age.
For example, in case a person of age 40 with a pension bases of € 60.000,- passes away while being covered, he will leave a lifelong next of kin coverage for his widow of gross annually rounded € 20.000,-.
The proposed new plan will provide more choice and pay-out flexibility as is often seen in the UK and USA: The widow would receive 5 times the gross annual wages of the employee and would be able to choose if she would like to get this in 5 annual terms or as a lifelong next of kin pension.
Of course the amount of the claim would be new but in the Dutch regime it would be really new to be able to choose during what kind of term the grant would be received. It would though still be an annuity, not a onetime capital.
More pay-out flexibility is desirable
I support a regime change to more pay-out flexibility.
I often see that expats for themselves choose not an annuity but instead an insured next of kin capital of € 500.000,- for a 5 to 10 year covered period. Which provides relief when needed and is currently not taxed.
USA Pensions: This New Pension Legislation Works? No
The House of Representatives just passed a bill that would bail out private union pension plans by giving them taxpayer dollars to invest in the stock market, as well as loans to cover their broken pension promises, which amount to $638 billion and counting.
The bailout without reform plan (!) would do nothing to fix the underlying problems. It would instead incentivize union pension plans to become more underfunded so they could receive taxpayer funds.
Risking taxpayer money in the stock market and making loans to insolvent pension plans is no solution.
Instead, Congress should improve the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s solvency, prevent plans from overpromising and underfunding pensions, and help plans minimize pension reductions across workers.
Global Pensions: Employers With 'Cash pension Plan'
Always when a new client states that they have chosen not to have a formal pension plan as they do not like red tape and all that, I totally understand their position.
After which I explain that not granting their employees the related huge tax benefits is extremely negative for their pension build up capacity.
Please combine efficiency and flexibility while still granting your employees those huge tax benefits which do not cost the company one Euro/Dollar/Ruble/Yen/Pound/Krone/Rand.
Swedish Pension Funds Make Huge ESG-Focused Divestment
Selling of nukes, tobacco, coal and oil sands holdings follows new law, plus actions of sister fund. Closely following its sister fund, in accordance with new legislation, Swedish pension fund AP1 has divested from several environmentally harmful categories.
The $1 billion AP1, one of four pension funds that manage the retirement assets of the nation, said it has removed allocations to nuclear weapons, tobacco, coal, and oil sand companies from its investment portfolio “since the beginning of the year.”
This comes days after a previous such move by another Swedish pension fund, AP4, which also announced it would divest from nuclear weapons and oil sand firms. The legislation, which went into effect January 1, required these steps. In the meantime, though, the funds are also supposed to log substantial long-term returns.
“The common value base states that the principle of legality means that the AP funds must take into account the international conventions that Sweden has ratified and the international agreements that Sweden has supported,” AP1 said, adding that these agreements form the guidelines of which assets the funds should avoid.
Stars Aligning For Corporate Plans to Take De-Risking Actions
The market volatility experienced in early to mid-October speaks to the importance of plan sponsors having a governance structure and framework in place to effectuate changes to their portfolios in a timely manner when funded levels rise.
As we have seen in prior periods, improvements in funded status can dissipate quickly if portfolios are not adjusted to reduce asset and liability mismatches. A well-funded or even fully funded plan can still carry substantial risk for the sponsor if plan assets are not invested in a manner which aligns with plan liabilities.
A confluence of factors (rising interest rates, robust US equity markets and tax reform-driven contributions) have contributed to a significant rise in US corporate DB funded levels. In particular, plan sponsors have benefited in 2018 from the dynamic of both rising interest rates and equity prices. A continued rise in long-term interest rates may prompt a more tepid equity market environment. In this short note we provide our most recent thoughts on the US corporate DB market and how plan sponsors may be thinking about de-risking today.
Corporate Governance Key to Pension's Growth
The concept of sustainable investment is becoming more essential daily as an effective means of achieving desired impact on the global environment.
The sustainable investment approach considers Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors, as well as the long-term health and stability of the economy as a whole.
These were the assertions of the Pioneer Director-General, the National Pension Commission (PenCom), Muhammad Ahmad, at the conference of Directors of Licensed Pension Operators in Nigeria, in Lagos.
The event, with the theme: “Consolidating the Nigerian Pension Industry through Sustainable Investment and Excellence in Corporate Governance Practices, attracted sector operators and stakeholders.
According to him, sustainable investment recognises that generation of long-term returns is dependent on stable, well-functioning and well-governed social, environmental and economic systems.
It also allows for the inherent social, environmental and economic risks in every investment to be correctly determined and priced.
He however, noted that the Nigerian pension industry is yet to develop a policy document on ESG principles, which would have been mainstreamed in the investment regulations to guide operators in deploying the pension assets in environmental-friendly assets.
Ahmad stressed that a lot was yet to be done in the integration of ESG factors into investment decisions of Nigerian pension funds, particularly at policy level and capacity building.
The expert stated that notwithstanding the challenge, the pension industry appears to have embraced the global trend on sustainable investments through the window of FGN securities allowed in the current regulations.
He pointed out that the investments by the pension industry in the Sovereign Green Bond, which was in excess of 70 per cent, amounting to N7.19 billion, shows the pension industry’s acceptance of sustainable investments as it ventures into the future.
According to him, efforts have been made in institutionalising ESG Principles in Nigeria, under the auspices of the Financial Services Regulation Coordinating Committee (FSRCC).
He noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria has developed a Framework for banks and an internal Framework as a corporate, while the Securities and Exchange Commission has completed work on a draft ESG Framework that is yet to be approved.
“One of the barriers of Sustainable Investment is the often struggle to achieve a paradigm shift from traditional investments, by disrupting the entrenched status quo; short-term biases; misconceptions and absence of accountability.
“Other barriers include capacity issues; the challenge of translating goals into investment portfolio; inadequate ESG data, disclosure standards; performance metrics; limited quality opportunities that integrate ESG criteria and structural disincentives,” he said.
Ahmad noted that the importance of corporate governance is, perhaps, the most pertinent ESG element in sustainability and cannot be overemphasised.
A strong corporate governance system of principles, policies and procedures, he said, is necessary to resolve potential conflicts and risks inherent in a company, thus, increasing sustainability within organisations.
He commended PenCom on the measures it instituted to facilitate sound governance in the pension industry, which transcends pension operators and extends to entities in which pension funds are invested.
“The Investment Regulations have stringent prescriptions for entities that are eligible for pension fund investments. For instance, companies that qualify for equity investments by pension funds must maintain high standards of transparency and governance, he said.
Ahmad urged the Pension Fund Managers to adequately take cognisance of sound Corporate Governance practices in their decisions to invest in entities or specialist investment funds, especially as the stake of the pension industry in governing the financial market continue to rise.