Bringing Asset Pooling to a Broader Market

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1 Bringing Asset Pooling to a Broader Market

2 A new, multi-client asset pooling platform from AEGON Global Pensions, developed with Citi, brings pan-european pensions pooling within the reach of smaller and mediumsized multinational companies. The pan-european pension scheme has been a long time coming. The Pensions Directive of 2003 was supposed to pave the way for a single entity to provide pensions across the European Union. However, there is still much to be achieved before this can happen. The crossborder provisions of the directive have been implemented in different ways by different countries and harmonisation is some way off. Consultations on improving the directive continue, however, a European pensions big bang seems as far away as ever. In a recent panel discussion in Brussels, it was claimed that only five new cross-border pension schemes had been set up since the directive was adopted. While Luxembourg, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands have all sought to establish themselves as centres for European pensions by launching pension pooling vehicles tailored to the needs of pension schemes; the creation of a pan-european pension scheme still requires a host of tax, regulatory and legislative obstacles to be addressed.

3 The Pressure Mounts The pressure to apply a centralised approach to pensions has intensified of late. With the implementation of the IAS 19 accounting rule, pensions are now highly visible on the balance sheet. The savage bear market experienced over the past two years has increased the urgency of achieving optimal control and governance over multiple schemes, some of which may now be materially underfunded. Multinationals, particularly those that have grown rapidly through acquisition, often find themselves saddled with a plethora of different consultants and investment managers. Not unreasonably, they want to achieve the same benefits for pensions that their international scale has achieved in treasury management, IT and administration. Asset Pooling is Here In one area asset pooling progress has been made. Pooling involves the co-mingling of assets in a single account within a taxtransparent vehicle, such as those mentioned above. This avoids, or minimises, the loss of any tax advantages that would accrue to pool participants were they investing directly. Where the tax status of different participants varies, a global custodian must manage multiple tax rates and account accordingly to each participant. A number of very large multinationals, including Unilever, Shell, IBM and Nestlé, have either introduced cross-border asset pooling for their European pension schemes or are in the process of doing so. The attractions of pooling are clear. Schemes achieve better governance, improve operating efficiency and risk control, and gain the benefits of unified investment management and custody arrangements. By being part of a large pool, smaller country funds get access to top-of-range investment managers and are better able to achieve diversification of assets. The European Federation for Retirement Provision has estimated the benefits of cross-border asset pooling for the average multinational at EUR1.2 million a year. Other estimates have put the annual gains at around 20 basis points. They stem in the main from lower administration costs, reduced brokerage charges and custody fees and the avoidance of tax drag.

4 However, there is substantial upfront cost to putting a pooling entity in place. Only the biggest corporates can justify the outlay. It is also very time-consuming. And to date, single-company pooling solutions have largely been restricted to selfadministered funds. Off-the-Shelf Asset Pooling Solution Now an off-the-shelf pension asset solution is in place for multinational corporations that either do not wish to set up their own platform or lack the scale to do so. AEGON Global Pensions, part of the Dutch life and pensions concern, AEGON Group, has established a multi-client platform with Citi that permits the tax-transparent, cross-border pooling of assets held by different types of institutions from pension schemes to insurance companies. The pooling solution has been developed primarily for the pension schemes of medium-sized multinationals and is currently available for pooling funds domiciled in the Netherlands, the UK and France. Its scope will be extended further over time. The new platform makes asset pooling a reality for a much broader group of companies than before, says Martijn Tans, Director Marketing and Product Development, AEGON Global Pensions: Until now, asset pooling has been the preserve of the very largest multinationals and required a fully bespoke solution that could take years to implement. What we are offering is more standardised. It is much easier to put in place. The AEGON platform uses the Dutch Fonds voor Gemene Rekening (FGR) structure as a tax-transparent vehicle, thereby minimising the impact of withholding tax. The solution is the result of a three year collaboration between AEGON and Citi, which will also serve as custodian of the assets. Karen Zeeb, Director, Head of Pooling Product EMEA, for Citi s Global Transaction Services says: The tax implications are only one aspect of the structure. Our solution has been built to accommodate everything from securities lending to performance measurement. It is unique in many ways; incorporating the ability to meet the diverse investment objectives of different investment managers whilst being scalable and highly flexible. Multi-Manager Approach The AEGON pooling vehicle is offered as a complete, bundled solution including asset management and custody. Asset management is provided by AEGON subsidiary TKP, which operates a highly successful multi-manager platform. With 23 multi-managed investment pools, TKP blends the styles of the world s leading investment managers to fit the strategy of its pension fund clients. It draws on a diverse range of asset classes from equities and fixed income to alternatives and real estate. It won the European Pensions Multi-Manager of the Year award in 2008 and has been short-listed again this year. The market for cross-border pensions may still be in its infancy but research by consultants Towers Perrin two years ago found that one in four companies surveyed was planning to set up a European pension fund within ten years. Asset pooling is another methodology to bring all the assets together, says Mr Tans: It should be viewed as the first, and at the moment most practical, way of achieving a harmonised, unified solution with all the economies of scale, governance benefits and cost savings that implies. Until now, however, that route has only been open to the very biggest schemes. Says Mr Tans: A single scheme solution is only feasible for a fund with EUR2 billion or more in assets. Now asset pooling is a reality for a much broader group of companies. The new platform makes asset pooling a reality for a much broader group of companies than before.

5 Global Transaction Services Citibank, N.A. All rights reserved. CITI and Citi and Arc Design are trademarks and service marks of Citigroup Inc. or its affiliates, used and registered throughout the world. The information contained in these pages is not intended as legal or tax advice and we advise our readers to contact their own advisers. Not all products and services are available in all geographic areas. Any unauthorised use, duplication or disclosure is prohibited by law and may result in prosecution. Citibank, N.A. is incorporated with limited liability under the National Bank Act of the U.S.A. and has its head office at 399 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10043, U.S.A. Citibank, N.A. London branch is registered in the UK at Citigroup Centre, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5LB, under No. BR001018, and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. VAT No. GB Ultimately owned by Citi Inc., New York, U.S.A. GRA /09

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