Aon: Future Pensions Act is a Reality After Bill is Passed by the Netherlands Senate
- Future Pensions Act is a big step forward for the pensions industry
- Historic moment: transition to defined contribution
- Communication is essential
- A perfect time to modernise employment conditions
ROTTERDAM, 31 May 2023 - Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm, today announced to be happy with the news that the Dutch Senate has voted in favour of the Future Pensions Act (FPA) (Wet toekomst pensioenen or Wtp in Dutch). ”We believe that the transition to the new system is a step forward,” says Frank Driessen, CEO, Wealth Solutions, Aon Netherlands. ”The new contract is better suited to this time and the changes in society, even though there are still issues with parts of the legislation. This new law gives employers the chance to modernise employment conditions by looking beyond pensions alone.”
Dutch pension funds had total assets of almost €1.5 trillion at the end of Q1 2023. Rachael Ingle, CEO, Wealth Solutions, Aon EMEA said: “This is a major set of reforms for one of the biggest and most complex pensions markets in Europe. Few countries have implemented something so significant; and employers, head offices, pension funds and works councils are going to have to make a number of key decisions in the next few months and years, as well as ensure good communication with employees and retirees.”
Why is Aon positive about the new law?
Certain difficulties have become apparent within the current system, particularly for pension funds. For example, pension funds have faced challenges with pension indexation in recent years, especially when plans were in weaker financial positions. In addition, support for the average contribution method used by defined benefit plans has largely disappeared, partly because participants no longer spend their entire career with one employer within one sector.
”We think that with the new system, the most important difficulties will be resolved,” says Driessen. ‘But we also see that the transition to the new system has become very complex. That’s why it will be a major challenge to get participants involved.”
The Senate may have finally passed the new law, but some notable adjustments were proposed at the last minute to be worked out in further legislation. The first adjustment was for the transition period to be extended to 1 January 2028. This means there may be differences in how the transition works out for various participants. The world may look very different for a fund that makes the transition on 1 January 2025 than for a fund that does not make the transition until 1 January 2028. And this might also apply to the capital received when the transfer of pension rights takes place. To win the support of the Senate, there has been a statement of intention to continue and expand the early retirement scheme (known as RVU scheme). In addition, a government commissioner is to be appointed to supervise the transition and a dispute resolution body for the pension sector is to be created.
Communication is essential
With the introduction of the Future Pensions Act, new and stricter communication regulations come into effect. Instead of keeping participants informed, the new law refers to the ‘guidance of decisions’ with regard to the participant and employee. This means an additional responsibility for employers as well as pension providers. All in all, communication will be essential.
According to Driessen, the pension market is now aware of this: ”We agree that this is all quite difficult to understand clearly. It is therefore important that participants are well informed and properly guided both during and following the transition. We believe, among other things, that participants should have the right to a personal interview so they can be informed about their personal pension situation.”
Collective transfer of pension rights
What is important to realise is that all current pension entitlements and rights will be fully and collectively transferred into the new system, without the consent of the beneficiaries. And it is by no means certain whether every participant will benefit from that transfer. Social partners and pension fund boards will have difficulty making balanced agreements on this issue. ”It is therefore important to take plenty of time for the process and to go through it carefully,” says Driessen.
Now that the law is a reality, progress has to be made. The transition period ends on 1 January 2028 and almost all pension funds have already started work on making this transition. And the picture is diverse for employers with pension schemes with an insurer or PPI. ”Now is the time to get started, or to keep making progress if you’ve already begun,” says Driessen. ‘There is a lot of work to do and it’s important to approach this carefully. Employers realise that employee financial wellbeing is becoming increasingly important to build a more resilient workforce. So this new pension legislation is an excellent time for employers to modernise their employment conditions by looking beyond pensions alone.”
The Netherlands is on the verge of an enormous transition when it comes to pension schemes. However, the entire sector will have to work hard to meet this transition by the deadline. The planned bill becoming law on 1 July 2023 and the ”end date” of 1 January 2028 by which the transition must be completed will be a challenge for many parties. Regarding the bill, Aon can see an even bigger role reserved for social partners, such as employers, trade unions and works councils. This also entails additional responsibility. The starting point will be age-independent defined contribution plans (i.e. an equal contribution percentage for everyone regardless of age). Pension funds will have a choice between the solidary contract and the flexible contract. Aon considers these contracts to be fairer and more transparent. This press release shows Aon’s response to a selected number of points in the bill. A more detailed response can be found on Aon’s website. On Thursday 8 June at 10.00, Aon will host a webinar on insured pension schemes.