Watchdog eyes advent of EU old-age savings products

FRANKFURT Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:27pm EST

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The EU's insurance and pensions watchdog plans to draw up criteria for a new class of European retirement savings product that will be available across the region to supplement national old-age pension schemes.

Setting Europe-wide standards should lead to lower costs for the consumer while still achieving a high degree of safety by requiring companies to apply rigorous risk-management, the head of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) said on Wednesday.

"The product could be developed to finance defined contribution schemes, both individually and collectively," Gabriel Bernardino told a news conference.

Regulators are concerned that Europe's rapidly ageing population needs to do more to provide for itself in old age, by boosting investment in private pensions, which stand alongside state and job-related pension schemes.

The euro debt crisis is also putting pressure on national governments to slash state pension payments.

The EU-certified retirement products would not replace national pension plans and existing products could be marketed cross-border if they meet the criteria set by regulators, Bernardino said.

"It is up to the private sector to develop the products but we would look at the characteristics that are fundamental for EU citizens to have trust in building the savings for their retirement," he said.

Bernardino declined to give a timetable for when the products might be available but said EIOPA would be drafting and consulting on the plans over the course of next year.

"This is more a medium-term project but there are clear expectations that we need to do it right," Bernardino said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Mike Nesbit)