Friday, January 05, 2007

Early birds

There is no more appropriate way to start the first post of the year than by dedicating it to an early bird, even though the year is well advanced already. The early bird in question is Allianz with its European ComPension product, the first product that has been designed with a pan-European pensions market in mind. Meanwhile, we've had a bit of time to look at this interesting solution, which is only the first of several products that are currently under development, as we hear.

European ComPension is a fairly plain-vanilla insurance retirement product that is available through Allianz's international network, but only in France, Italy and Germany for now. Unsurprisingly, it offers only DC solutions, although this entails a guaranteed minimum return in Germany. The pricing reflects the first mover advantage. Assets are invested in one of two new Luxemburg based Allianz Global Investors European Pension funds Dynamic or Balanced which invest in an opportunistic combination of Euro area stocks and bonds.

Given the somewhat moderate pace of the market, I am not sure whether the first mover advantage is really that big in the case in point. European ComPension has obviously been designed from a network perspective so as to not cannibalise the network's incumbent business. As it is our view that the pan-European pensions market has the potential to disrupt insurance networks in that specific segment, it is probably unwise to choose such a development approach.

While the choice of the development approach may be ill advised but comprehensible, it is hard to understand the investment strategy of the funds on offer. The geographic limitation of investments to the Euro area appears to present such a strong impediment to the portfolio's potential efficiency that one may wonder whether this is in line with the Prudent Person Rule at all.

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