The €29bn ING Pensioenfonds is reducing its six pension arrangements to a single one, in order to improve communication and automation, in addition to offering a more sophisticated array of investment options to its members.During the past years, several mergers and take-overs had caused a patchwork of exception, transitional as well as compensation arrangements for the closed scheme’s 70,000 participants and pensioners.The pension fund explained that the simplified set up will offer retiring participants more choice, including retiring between the age of 55 and 71. It added that people who prefer a part-time pension can do so in lump sums of 10%.Improved digitalisation of the scheme will also be a bonus. The pension fund said that a large majority of trade union members have approved the changes, which amount to a €25m project. Costs are expected to be recouped within three years, it added.In an interview on the scheme’s website, Edward Heijkers, director of services at pensions provider and ING subsidiary AZL, explained that the harmonisation process was complicated, “as company pension plans in the financial sector have many bells and whistles”.He added that, in the industry, a pension plan is considered to be a primary labour condition, ”to attract and retain people”.As a part of the simplification, schemes such as contribution compensation, temporary old age pension, and interim pension, have been merged into a single plan. The target pension age for almost all participants has been set at 65.Emanual Geurts, trustee at trade union De Unie, said it was the first time the unions had been involved in major changes in a closed pension plan.He said the unions were satisfied the value of all pension rights for all participants had been maintained.In a statement, board member Vandana Doekhie highlighted the importance of the simplification project for the scheme’s long-term future. She said the changes made pension provision future proof and more cost-effective.ING Pensioenfonds closed its defined benefit plan to new entrants in 2014, after ING split into ING and Nationale Nederlanden.Since then, participants continued pensions accrual in collective defined contribution schemes at the respective new companies.
File photoTOWNSVILLE’S vacancy rates have increased slightly to 4 per cent but are still well below 2017 levels.The latest REIQ Rental Survey shows that vacancy rates rose from 3.8 per cent in March 2018 to 4 per cent in June 2018.More from news01:21Buyer demand explodes in Townsville’s 2019 flood-affected suburbs12 Sep 202001:21‘Giant surge’ in new home sales lifts Townsville property market10 Sep 2020A REIQ spokeswoman said despite Townsville’s vacancy rate being the second weakest of a major centre, there was positive signs.“The Townsville rental market has shown signs of improvement over the past 12 – 24 months,” she said.“In March 2017 the Townsville vacancy rate was 6.2 per cent so this market is clearly moving in the right direction and is headed toward recovery.”In September 2016 vacancy rates in Townsville peaked at 7.1 per cent before making a steady decline.In September 2008 they stopped as low as 1.5 per cent before they started to rise.According to the REIQ Townsville’s rental market will remain weak until vacancy rates fall below 3 per cent.