To date, many organisations have submitted detailed responses to the European Commission’s (EC) draft PEPP Regulation, which was published on 29th June 2017. There is strong consensus for the merit of the PEPP, both by the Trilogue participants (European Commission, European Parliament and the Council of Europe) and other stakeholders. However, potential obstacles still exist and, unless pragmatic solutions are found, there is the risk that the PEPP could be launched but the take-up may be low.
Therefore, as the PEPP enters its next stage of Trilogue discussions, it is important that the voices of the potential PEPP providers and distributors are still heard, since these stakeholders are well-placed to highlight practical difficulties that would adversely affect the success of the PEPP. A cross-section of these stakeholders came together at the FECIF European Pensions Institute’s (FEPI) inaugural meeting in June. A FEPI position paper has subsequently been produced, which provides detailed analysis, whilst a brief summary of the FEPI’s views is shown below.
It is very important that a pragmatic alternative solution be agreed by the Trilogue, rather than being left until after the Regulation has been enacted. Theoretically, a fully separate tax regime – i.e. a 29th regime – applicable across all of Europe would be ideal in terms of simplicity and portability. However, it is understood that this is not likely to be accepted by Member States.
Therefore, the FEPI recommends that sub-sections can initially be limited to EET (exempt/exempt/taxed) and TEE (taxed/exempt/exempt), as these would align with the majority of Member States’ local taxation rules. If desired, EEE & TTT sub-sections might also be created for alignment with other Member States, as demand arises. Obviously, the tax regime applicable to any PEPP participant is based on the participant’s tax residency, as is the case for all retirement products today, backed up by the rules of existing Double Taxation Agreements.
Default Investment Option: Two possibilities are now on the table:
A nominal ‘guarantee on capital’, to cover at least the contributions paid (net of fees and charges) as a minimum, which can be extended by the PEPP provider to include inflation protection.
An ‘investment strategy directed at ensuring capital protection of the saver on the basis of a risk mitigation technique’ – more simply known as a life-cycle approach
The opinion of the FEPI is that the PEPP framework should allow for both of the above, if necessary shaped at a local level, according to national rules or custom. As detailed in the FEPI position paper, the guarantee on capital should be real (not nominal). In addition, there is merit in using life-cycle investing as the basis for a default option for retirement planning, even for investors that may have a more cautious attitude to investment risk, depending upon the time horizon of the investor.
Whilst a single regime for the PEPP would be ideal in terms of simplicity and portability, it is understood that this could present issues for Member States if, for example, this resulted in the PEPP being granted a more favourable treatment than a local Personal Pension Product (PPP). Likewise, if a local PPP had more favourable treatment than the PEPP, this would serve as a deterrent for someone investing in a PEPP.
Therefore, the general consensus of the FEPI is that within the framework of the PEPP, decumulation options should be broad, covering all potential pay-out variations, allowing for PEPP providers to shape the PEPP according to local rules.
Notwithstanding the above, the more complex the product, the greater the costs of administration, which will directly impact on the investment returns to the consumer and so an appropriate balance must be found.
Distribution & Advice:
It is arguable that PEPPs should only be sold on an advised basis, even if the saver has chosen the default investment option – whether this be a real capital guarantee or a lifecycle investment option. The impact of national pension entitlements, varying decumulation options and retirement ages, particularly if the PEPP saver has cross-border accumulated benefits, strengthens the need for the PEPP saver to receive appropriate advice, regardless of the amount being saved.
At the very least, the requirement for an appropriateness test should be a pre-requisite in all situations, as a minimum level of saver protection is always necessary. Decisions concerning pension products are numbered amongst the most important that each saver is expected to make in his/her life.
The question now is will the Trilogue be able to reach a consensus on the PEPP that is acceptable to all stakeholders?
Due to the importance of the PEPP, a round table will take place at FECIF’s forthcoming Annual Conference taking place on Wednesday, 17th October 2018 at the Renaissance Brussels Hotel, Belgium. This is a major event and, amongst other issues, will address two significantly important and relevant areas:
Personal retirement planning across the EU, not least the Pan-European Pension Plan
The rise, development, importance and future role of Fintech
The event will ask, and look to answer, numerous key questions, such as: how can we stimulate private pension provision and motivate consumers to take personal responsibility for their financial futures; can the PEPP provide a solution and is a truly pan-European pension possible; can Fintech assist in these areas and, if so, how?
Speakers and participants will be key individuals from EU regulatory bodies and consumer associations, academics and MEPs, as well as numerous major industry figures.