Swiss pension outcomes are falling – could “matching” be part of the answer?

Low, even negative, interest rates and uncertain growth prospects is becoming a “new normal” in Switzerland. The impact on pension fund finances is well documented – pressure on funding levels, tough to find the right investment opportunities and focus on cost transparency. This environment also poses challenges for insured members, and as a result their employers. Expected retirement outcomes have fallen. What does this mean for employees and employers? 

10 years ago an insured person would expect higher returns on any money they invest for retirement than they would today. The mandatory interest credit for Swiss pension plans according to BVG/LPP was 2.50% in 2007 compared to 1.00% today.  Ten-year Swiss government bonds yields have fallen from 2.6% to -0.1% in the same period. This not only affects expected returns on the assets set aside but also the cost of providing an income for life after retirement. Life expectancies for retiring pensioners have increased by about 1 year for females and 2 years for males in that time which also needs to be funded.

All of these factors have had a major impact on retirement outcomes. Based on our calculations, in 2007 a 40 year-old could invest CHF 7’100 and expect a pension of a CHF 1’000 a year for that investment. Today a 40 year-old would expect to have to invest CHF 14’700 – more than doubling of the cost of retirement over 10 years. In that time, inflation expectations have also fallen, but overall the cost of retirement has increased.

What can pension funds do?

Pension funds aim according to our experience to maintain the level of retirement benefits they provide while financing the promises already made. But pension funds are in a “zero-sum” game – without extra funding, members will ultimately receive lower benefits on average when results are not what was expected. Robust analysis and forecasting of what employees can expect to receive, combined with clear communication may be the best what they can do. Other measures are down to employees and employers as recipients and sponsors of retirement benefits.

What does this mean for individuals and employers?

Find higher returns? In conventional collective Swiss plans, employees share in the overall returns of the fund as they are credited to them. This limits opportunities to take more risks, with an expectation of higher returns. For higher earnings, it is possible to have individual strategies through a “1e” pension plan. These plans can be used to seek higher returns, but this may not be suitable for all.

Later retirements? Without saving more, employees have to retire later for the same outcome.  In some ways this is only reasonable: If life expectancies increase without changing retirement ages, the proportion of life we spend in retirement rises. Employers may have to prepare for the ageing effect on their business – not only their workforce recruitment and retention, but possibly their business strategy and target markets.

Employers pay more? One answer may be employers paying more. But employers face economic challenges themselves, with increasing competition and pressure for results. For most companies, raising costs or investing cash may not be palatable.

Employees pay more? Creating more awareness of the individual options available for the employees is one option. Additional voluntary employee contributions are typically deductible for tax purposes. Some employees don’t have confidence in their pension plan and are not keen to lock away money until retirement.

How can companies create further incentives for employees to pay more? A look abroad could help.

Could “matching” be part of the solution?

In the US as well as the UK, contribution “matching” is widely used in pension plan design. Employer contributions are adjusted to “match” those of employees. When an employee contributes a percentage of their salary into the plan, the employer contributes an amount directly linked to what the employee pays. This could be 1:1 – i.e. if the employee pays 2% of pay, employer pays the same. Or some ratio like 2:1 or 1:2.

The big advantages of matching are two-fold: it encourages employees to pay more; and it focuses employer spending where it is most valued by its employees. One of our clients challenged the common Swiss plan option of employers paying the same for all employees, whereas employees can choose their level: “Why can employees choose to pay less, but I cannot follow when they do?” A reasonable question that matching helps to address.

The challenge is that legislation in Switzerland currently restricts the ability to apply matching within the regular plan. The law requires the employer contribution rate to a pension plan to be the same for all employees in the same situation (e.g. age, grade etc). “Matching” can be done through the buy-in system. So with the right plan design, matching can be incorporated within the Swiss plan.

This won’t for every situation as the use of buy-ins is subject to certain caps and restrictions which may become a barrier. Plan administration may be more complex. But in challenging times for pension outcomes, new solutions may be needed.

Contact

Richard Köppel
Pensionskassen-Experte SKPE, People and Organisation
Tel. +41 58 792 11 72
richard.koeppel@ch.pwc.com
Adrian Jones
Director, People and Organisation
Tel. +41 58 792 40 13
adrian.jones@ch.pwc.com

Switzerland: New social security treaty between Switzerland and China

A social security treaty between Switzerland and the People’s Republic of China (China) will enter into force on 19 June 2017. The maximum posting period is 72 months. For the duration of the posting employees (regardless their nationality) are exempt from the compulsory insurance obligations of the country of occupation which are covered in the social security treaty. As from 19 June 2017 it will be possible to obtain a Certificate of Coverage.

 

Click here for more details

 

Contact

Véronique Schaller
+41 58 792 5036
veronique.schaller-wiesli@ch.pwc.com

Natalia Graf
+41 58 792 4324
natalia.graf@ch.pwc.com

 

Winning the fight for female talent: How to gain the diversity edge through inclusive recruitment

Gain the diversity edge through inclusive recruitment

Today, more and more CEOs regard talent diversity and inclusion as vital to their organisation’s ability to drive innovation and gain competitive advantage. And as businesses across the world inject greater urgency into their gender diversity efforts, we’re seeing an intensifying focus on hiring female talent. In fact, 78% of large organisations tell us they’re actively seeking to hire more women – especially into more experienced and senior level positions.

PwC’s new report, Winning the fight for female talent, explores how organisations are seeking to deliver on their gender diversity attraction goals. We also examine the impact of these approaches and – more generally – how they’re matching up to the career aspirations and diversity experiences and expectations of the modern workforce.


Download the full report here.

 

Steady progress in boosting female economic empowerment, but gender pay gap still a major issue

PwC Women in Work Index

Prize of pay parity in OECD could mean US$2 trillion increase in total female earnings

Latest PwC Women in Work Index reveals:

  • Gradual improvement in female economic empowerment in OECD
  • Nordic countries still lead the way, with Iceland, Sweden and Norway taking top 3 spots
  • Poland climbs into top 10 thanks to gains in cutting female unemployment
  • Other top 10 places held by New Zealand, Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland and Switzerland
  • But gender pay gap poses major challenge, with parity still decades if not centuries away
  • Potential prize of closing the gap could boost total female earnings by US$2 trillion

21st February, 2017 – Slow but steady progress continues to be made in OECD countries towards greater female economic empowerment, according to a new PwC report.

But the gender pay gap continues to be a major issue, with the average working woman in the OECD still earning 16% less than her male counterpart – despite becoming better qualified.

The latest PwC Women in Work Index, which measures levels of female economic empowerment across 33 OECD countries based on five key indicators, shows that the Nordic countries – particularly Iceland, Sweden and Norway – continue to occupy the top positions on the Index. Poland stands out for achieving the largest annual improvement, rising from 12th to 9th. This is due to a fall in female unemployment and an increase in the full-time employment rate.

PwC analysis shows that there are significant economic benefits in the long term from increasing the female employment rate to match that of Sweden; the GDP gains across the OECD could be around US$6 trillion.

pwc_infographic

When it comes to closing the gender pay gap, countries such as Poland, Luxembourg and Belgium could see the gap fully close within two decades if historical trends continue. But much slower historical progress in Germany and Spain means that their gap might not close for more than two centuries, although making this a policy priority could accelerate progress. The gains from achieving pay parity in the OECD are substantial – it could result in a potential boost in female earnings of around US$2 trillion at today’s values.

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Download the full report here.

 

Contacts:

Hans Geene
Partner
+41 58 792 9124
hans.h.geene@ch.pwc.com

Charles Donkor
Partner
+41 58 792 4554
charles.donkor@ch.pwc.com

New report: PwC’s 20th Global CEO Survey – Harnessing the power of human skills in the machine age

The talent challenge: Harnessing the power of human skills in the machine age

pwc_ceo survey_2017

With the rise of automation, we’ve reached a point where we’re questioning the role people play in the workplace. How to achieve the right mix of people and machines in the workplace is the critical talent question of our age.

Fifty-two percent of CEOs say that they’re exploring the benefits of humans and machine working together and 39% are considering the impact of Artificial Intelligence on future skills needs. This is a delicate balancing act for CEOs in every sector and region.

However, you can’t have a machine age without humans and 52% are planning to increase headcount over the next 12 months. They are focused on obtaining the skills that they need to create a world where humans and machines work alongside each other.

Different skills will be needed, roles will disappear and others will evolve. Some organisations will need fewer people, but others will need more. There will be a rebalancing of human capital as organisations adjust.

Exceptional skills and leadership will be needed, and yet 77% of CEOs say they see the availability of key skills as the biggest business threat. Todays in demand skills are exclusively human capabilities – adaptability, problem solving, creativity and leadership. Software cannot imitate passion, character or collaborative spirit. By marrying these skills with technology, innovation can thrive and organisations can succeed in competitive market places.

CEOs have an enormous challenge ahead of them; it is the role of business leaders to protect and nurture their people to show that in the technological age, humans are their priority.

Our new report – The talent challenge: Harnessing the power of human skills in the machine age – looks at the dilemmas facing CEOs and their HR teams in today’s environment and how their businesses can stay ahead.

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Download the full report here.

 

Contacts:

Hans Geene
Partner
+41 58 792 9124
hans.h.geene@ch.pwc.com

Charles Donkor
Partner
+41 58 792 4554
charles.donkor@ch.pwc.com

Revision of taxation at source passed

On 15 December 2016 Parliament accepted the revision of the rules on the taxation at source of employment income and passed the final wording of the law. From what we know at present, a realistic assumption is that the law will enter into force on 1 January 2020. The revision became necessary after a number of Federal Court decisions revealed that the existing rules had shortcomings and contradicted the freedom of movement with the EU.

The uniform procedure for subsequent ordinary assessments foreseen in the revised law will close the gap between individuals subject to tax at source and those subject to ordinary taxation, and make them more comparable. The revision involves corrections rather than fundamental changes to taxation at source. However, it does leave gaps and a lack of clarity on certain points. Many of the provisions still have to be defined in detail by the FTA and the cantons. This shows just how complex the matter is, but at the same time creates an opportunity to govern taxation at source more precisely and clarify the situation regarding taxpayers and parties liable for remitting the tax. It will be easier to adapt the upcoming implementing ordinances and circulars to take account of the relevant social developments. It is to be hoped that the authorities responsible will also continue to use these ordinances and circulars as an opportunity to modernise taxation at source. The first drafts are likely to be available from mid- 2017.

Read more here.

Update: New confirmations required for 2016 taxation of German cross-border commuters’ pensions

Following a ruling by the German Federal Supreme Finance Court in Karlsruhe at the end of July last year, Germans who commute to Switzerland for work are about to see a change in the way their pensions are taxed. The law governing taxation of contributions and benefits from mandatory occupational benefit schemes in Switzerland (BVG, often simply referred to as pension funds) is to be amended. This will particularly affect employees with an extra-mandatory pension cover. The changes will enter into force for the 2016 fiscal year. Those affected will need a new confirmation to be able to declare their income tax correctly.

Germans commuting to work in Switzerland are basically covered by the BVG if they are subject to mandatory federal old-age and survivors’ insurance (AHV/AVS) and meet the age and pay requirements for admission to a BVG benefits scheme. So far the German tax authorities have not required any special certification or confirmation from the Swiss pension fund. It’s quite a different matter when it comes to child allowances, daily sickness benefits insurance contributions and other areas.

Read more…

P&O global research: ‘The Ethics of Incentives’

PwC is working with Professor Alexander Pepper and Dr Susanne Burri of The London School of Economics on a ground-breaking global study into the ethics of incentives and the fair distribution of income in society.

As a senior business leader, we would very much value your contribution to this piece of work. Our survey takes a maximum of 20 minutes and includes questions which are designed to investigate the complex views we all have about pay fairness. Please click on the link below:

Survey

Please submit the survey by Friday 27th January 2017.

All responses will remain confidential – but there is an option to sign-up for an advance copy of the findings if you so wish.
I hope you will find the time to contribute.

Contact:
Dr. Robert W. Kuipers
PricewaterhouseCoopers AG
Birchstrasse 160, 8050 Zurich
Switzerland

Email: robert.kuipers@ch.pwc.com
Phone: +41 58 792 4530

If you have any questions, please write to us at SurveyAdmin@us.pwc.com

P&O global research: ‘The Ethics of Incentives’

PwC is working with Professor Alexander Pepper and Dr Susanne Burri of The London School of Economics on a ground-breaking global study into the ethics of incentives and the fair distribution of income in society.

As a senior business leader, we would very much value your contribution to this piece of work. Our survey takes a maximum of 20 minutes and includes questions which are designed to investigate the complex views we all have about pay fairness. Please click on the link below:

Survey

Please submit the survey by Friday 20th January 2017.

All responses will remain confidential – but there is an option to sign-up for an advance copy of the findings if you so wish.
I hope you will find the time to contribute.

Contact:
Dr. Robert W. Kuipers
PricewaterhouseCoopers AG
Birchstrasse 160, 8050 Zurich
Switzerland

Email: robert.kuipers@ch.pwc.com
Phone: +41 58 792 4530

If you have any questions, please write to us at SurveyAdmin@us.pwc.com

Executive Compensation & Corporate Governance: Insights 2016

Executive Compensation: Focus on Performance and Communication

Since 2007, managers’ pay at SMIM constituent companies has been closing the gap with the remuneration earned by executives at SMI companies; and it is outpacing the rate of increase at small caps. Share-based compensation is becoming a more important factor at large- and mid-cap enterprises. Variable compensation goes up if the company has performed well – and it decreases when the results are poor. Communication with shareholders has gained in significance. These are the findings of the study entitled “Executive Compensation & Corporate Governance: Insights 2016” conducted by PwC Switzerland.

Read the online version of the study here.

 

Portrait of successful senior businesswoman standing in factory shopfloor with digital tablet

You can find more information here.