Last week, Tom van der Spek, director of old-age provision at Syntrus, said the company would now focus on corporate and occupational pension funds, as well as on the new general pension fund (APF) of insurer Centraal Beheer, which is part of Achmea Group.Shell and Syntrus have been co-operating since 1 July 2013, when the oil company closed its defined benefit scheme SSPF to new entrants, who had to start saving in a new defined contribution scheme, SNPS.Since then, Syntrus has managed pensions administration for SNPS, while SSPF kept its own pensions bureau SPN as its provider.Janwillem Bouma, director of both schemes, said Syntrus would also deliver bespoke pension management for SSPF’s participants against low costs.He added that pensions communication “had to comply with the most recent digital standards”.Van der Spek said Shell’s choice had reinforced Syntrus’s position as a “market leader for company pension funds”.In other news, Hibin, the €761m sector scheme for the building materials industry, which is to leave Syntrus, has said it will start carrying out its pensions administration in-house.According to Gijs Alferink, the scheme’s chairman, the new arrangement will allow Hibin to save €400,000 in costs and VAT annually.He said the decision to leave Syntrus had been taken last summer due to a desire to cut costs, as well as growing dissatisfaction with the service provided. Hibin has 13,200 participants and pensioners affiliated with 850 employers. Shell’s closed €26bn pension fund in the Netherlands (SSPF) is to outsource pensions administration for its 40,000 participants to Syntrus Achmea Pensioenbeheer.The new contract, effective from 1 January 2018, will also include all communication with participants.The announcement comes soon after Syntrus disclosed that it would stop providing services to industry-wide pension funds, as its new IT system struggled to cope with their disparate arrangements.At present, industry-wide schemes account for about two-thirds of Syntrus’s business.
European pension funds have received a further three-year exemption from derivatives clearing rules in a move the European Commission claims will save them “up to €1.6bn”.Pension schemes will not be expected to comply with requirements to trade derivatives through clearing houses until 2020, the commission announced yesterday as it unveiled amendments to the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR).In its proposed amendments, the commission said “no viable technical solution facilitating the participation of [pension schemes] in central clearing has emerged to date”.The delay will give central clearing houses, pension schemes, and other players more time to come up with solutions, the European Commission said. However, Valdis Dombrovskis, vice-president responsible for financial stability, financial services, and the capital markets union, said central clearing for pension funds remained “a clear goal”.He added that the delay would help pension schemes “avoid estimated losses of up to €1.6bn”.The decision marks the third time the European Commission has delayed bringing pension funds into EMIR’s scope. It originally pushed back the deadline by two years to August this year, before adding another year to this revised timetable.A spokesman for PensionsEurope, the continent-wide trade body, said: “The prolongation of the exemption is good news for pension funds. We appreciate that the European Commission has taken seriously into consideration the undue financial burden that would have resulted from [the] clearing obligation when only cash can be used as collateral. Now we need to use these extra years of exemption to find good permanent solutions.”James Walsh, policy lead for EU and international at the UK’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, welcomed the exemption.“This extension recognises that the market has not yet developed a practicable solution for clearing by pension schemes,” he said. “While this development removes the worrying prospect of compulsory clearing from August 2018, it does not present a solution to the underlying problem. Derivatives are an essential tool for pension funds, who use them to hedge their risks and ensure they can pay pensioners.”In a speech announcing the EMIR amendments, Dombrovskis also outlined regulatory effects on non-EU-based central clearing houses, a particularly important issue with the UK’s impending exit from the EU. London is a key hub of derivatives trading in Europe, with the commission estimating that as much as 75% of euro-denominated interest rate derivatives are traded in the UK capital.Dombrovskis said the European Commission was considering whether to require clearing houses “of key systemic importance” to be domiciled within the EU. Alternatively, the commission could request “enhanced supervisory powers” over clearing houses in non-EU countries.He added that detailed discussions on this issue would begin soon, with a view to proposing legislation in June.In addition to the exemption for pension funds, the commission also announced a streamlining of reporting requirements to alleviate the burden on smaller players in the derivatives markets, particularly non-financial companies.