19.10.2017

International Structured Products Forum Lucerne 2017 – “The Swiss Pension Fund System – Challenging the Investment Industry”

90 participants from Switzerland and abroad used the traditional industry meeting at the beginning of September in Lucerne for “food for thought” in the challenging political and regulatory market environment. Dr Michael Loretan, Head of the Asset Management Division at FINMA threw light on this in his keynote speech, identifying the Swiss government’s milestones, and recapping the discussions in parliament on the final implementation of the FIDLEG, FINIG and FinfraG statutory instruments.

Structured products and pension funds – further education needed

The panel discussion on the topic of Swiss retirement provisioning was introduced by Dr Peter Grünenfelder, Director of Avenir Suisse: previous reforms did not go far enough. In his view, economies of scale and the freedom to pick and choose pension funds to make the system more efficient are game changers. The meeting was chaired by “Finanz und Wirtschaft” journalist Philippe Béguelin. There was heated debate amongst the panellists Dr David S. Gerber, Head of Financial Market Policy at the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF), Prof Dr Maurice Pedergnana, Professor at the HSLU and Chief Economist at Zugerberg Finanz, as well as Nicolas Walon, Head of Financial Engineering at Bank J. Safra Sarasin. Conclusion: there is great need for reform on the regulatory side, as well as in respect of the provision of knowledge and information. The necessary know-how is often lacking in particular amongst the ranks of board of trustee members of Swiss pension funds, who play a key role. This means they fail to actively include structured products in their asset diversification and risk management perspectives within portfolios.

Untapped investment potential at pension funds

Current regulatory challenges were discussed from a national and international perspective in the legal workshop, chaired by Daniel Häberli, Head of Legal & Regulations at the SSPA. In the afternoon, Nicolas Walon highlighted the investment process in a pension fund. Thanks to his work on the Investment Committee of the Pension Fund of Bank J. Safra Sarasin, he was able to provide interesting insights into how pension funds work. In summary: “More is possible than has been implemented to date by most pension funds.” This potential is to be used by raising the profile of structured products, providing knowledge and information, and by easing the regulatory hurdles. The participants also provided many thought-provoking ideas.

“Across the border” Thomas Wulf, General Secretary of EUSIPA, threw light inter alia on the current debate concerning Brexit and European product regulation. Belgian impressions were provided by Gilles Staquet, Chairman of the Board of Directors at BELSIPA. He presented the market, and explained how decisions taken by the Belgian regulator often challenged the financial industry.

Next September will see another “International Structured Products Forum”. Details will be made available at the appropriate time. At any rate, 5 & 6 September 2018 should be noted in your diaries.

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