ESIP-EAPSPI conference on pension communication.

Dr. S-W – 02/2019

Recent global pension reforms have increased the need for personalised pension information and improved financial literacy. Worldwide, pension institutions are faced with the challenge of providing their members with an overview of their future pension entitlements and the uncertainties associated with forecasts.


Therefore, the European associations EAPSPI (European Association of Public Sector Pension Institutions) and ESIP (European Social Insurance Platform), together with the information service FindyourPension organised a joint conference on pension communication. The conference took place on 5 February at the University of Leuven, a neighbouring city of Brussels.

The focus was on best practices in communicating pension information to insured persons as well as information across pillars. Experts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, where cross-pillar information is already well advanced, were given the opportunity to speak. The presentation from the FindyourPension platform for mobile researchers, which was previously funded by the German Ministry of Research, provided a good insight into experiences with cross-border information.


The way of the future can be seen with the European Tracking Service (ETS) project that started a month ago and which is being funded by the European Commission. The project involves both second pillar institutions and national first pillar institutions, either directly or through their national cross-pillar tracking service. The ETS will provide mobile workers who have registered with personalised cross-border pension information.


The Project Manager of the ETS, Claudia Wegner-Wahnschaffe from the German VBL, announced that the service could start its practical work within two years, even though initially only a few countries are covered.

Steven Janssens, General Director of the Belgian social database Sigedis, added that the Belgian and Dutch tracking systems could join within 18-24 months. Denmark, Sweden and Norway could follow soon. Initially, there will be information about first and second pillar institutions in which entitlements have been acquired, including their amount. However, Wegner-Wahnschaffe added that it could be up to 12 years before all Member States are linked and the system is completed.


The project will be presented to interested parties in September. This will include certain topics being discussed in ‘open working groups’, such as issues related to IT and data exchange with national sources and their standardisation.

Everyone agreed that the project can only be realised step by step and that it must be kept as simple as possible, at least in the initial phase, that national specifcities must be taken into account, and that detailed information should initially be retained by national information systems. Furthermore, the majority of participants were against a legal obligation for Member States to participate in the ETS.


Brexit is also casting its shadow on this project. It is unlikely that the United Kingdom will provide data to the ETS after leaving the EU. However, users from the UK would still have access to the system, Janssens said. 


Finally, special attention was drawn to the role of social media in educating and informing citizens. The event is seen as the first step in regular in-depth cooperation between pension insurance funds from different countries and branches.


Professor Yves Stevens from the University of Leuven took a more critical look at the debate over pension information. About five years ago, things were relatively certain: information and education was supposed to promote understanding of the legitimacy of pension reforms and show citizens the need for complementary pension provisions. Today we know that it is more about ‘ideologically’ accompanying a policy that consistently does away with the solidarity of old-age pensions and shifts all risks to the individual.


One has to wonder whether citizens, despite all this information, are even capable of making sound decisions. Under the circumstances, it has become more difficult to build trust. The challenge now is to convey an adequate picture of the risks of privately-funded pension plans, including through projections and by establishing ‘awards’.