Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Commissioner's philippic

Here is the text of Commissioner McCreevy's speech at today's IPE Awards. He expresses his disappointment in some member states' defective implementation of the Pensions Directive, especially with regards to national investment limits. He describes the Directive as a "harmonising framework" "to allow the best pension fund managers to administer pension schemes across the single market and pension providers to compete fairly on a pan-European basis". He also announced that court cases have been initiated against three member states today - these are probably Slovenia, the UK and Italy. Interestingly, he singles out Liability Driven Investment as a market innovation to better manage risks. Clearly, deficient implementation will not be cut a lot of slack.

The core focus of the speech was dedicated to the third pillar and forthcoming changes in the regulatory environment as well as existing challenges in the marketplace, such as insufficient availability of annuity products. (More from IPE)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Asset management under the Directive [CH]

Here are the slides of my presentation held today at the IZS seminar on Pan-European Pensions from a Swiss perspective. The main focus of that presentation was on the prudent person rule, which is a new concept in the Swiss market. Co-sponsoring (together with Winterthur) Bank Sarasin's auditorium in Basle was fully packed, and I have a feeling that this was a rather important event for the Swiss market place with most participants' awareness of the challenge raised.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

How long do we want to live?

In its 50th anniversary issue, the New Scientist has forecasts for the next 50 years from over 70 of the world's most brilliant scientists. Three of those forecasts deal with ageing. The common theme is as extension of life expectancy "by about 40%". It is possible that a half-century from now, the most urgent question facing our society will not be "How long can humans live?" but "How long do we want to live?" This would amount to a considerable acceleration in the long running 2.5 years per decade growth rate of life expentancy, as discussed in an earlier post.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One European retirement market [CH]

Swiss economics half-weekly Finanz und Wirtschaft has my article about the EU pensions directive and the Swiss position relative to it in today's edition.

A user's view on XBRL & assurance

Please find attached the slides from a short presentation I gave at the World Congress of Accountants in Istanbul this morning.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Taboo topic retirement age [CH]

Credit Suisse weighs on the debate about the retirement age in Switzerland by challenging the uncharacteristically disconnected political consensus that a retirement age of 65 is sustainable in the present demographic situation. In its recent study, it argues that only an increase of the working life can return social security and retirement provision systems to sustainability and addresses widely held contrary beliefs, especially concerning higher flexibility in retirement as long as it does not lead to an increase of retirement age on average.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Accounting changes

It doesn't happen often that the debate about changes in accounting rules makes the Financial Times' front page. Today is the exception to the rule. The CEOs of the global Big Four audit firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young) together with their colleagues from smaller siblings Grant Thornton and BDO, are calling for wide ranging changes to global accounting and auditing in a Paris Symposium. The discussion paper is available online.

While initial comments tend to be skeptical, I share the thrust of the self-proclaimed conversation starter. Comprehensive change, including efficient delivery via XBRL and fair value reporting in real time is on the agenda, but will be strongly opposed by forces opposed to change. Unfortunately, using utopian language along the lines of Huxley's Brave New World is playing right into their hands.

XBRL has been a recurring theme at today's meeting of the IASB's Analyst Representatives Group, for instance. This is no Utopia, it's just fast change. Have a look at the SEC's Chairman's comment to a blog post (via