Pension funds, a rich dish that appeals to foreigners

Article by Adriano Bonafede published in ‘Affari & Finanza’, the insert of Repubblica

A rich pot of 215 billion in assets under management, from which Italian and foreign managers, but also consultancy companies, withdraw their percentages every year for the service offered. This is the total assets, photographed as of September 2023, of closed, open, pre-existing pension funds, insurance PIPs, which together constitute the universe of Italian supplementary pensions. Not very large, to be honest, compared to the masses managed by the second level social security systems of other countries which reach thousands of billions, having started many years earlier and with a system that facilitated this form of saving. Even in Italy this is still a nice mouthful for those who sell their services with the aim of providing funds and their associates with a satisfactory annual return. There are many Italian entities sharing the cake – asset management companies or insurance companies – but also various foreign entities. The latter, however, prevail in quantity and volumes managed where the going gets tougher, i.e. in occupational pension funds and pre-existing funds (for which, however, precise data is lacking). In this case, the tenders are mandatory and subject to precise regulations of Covip, the supervisory authority for supplementary pensions, and of Ivass, the insurance control authority. In this sector, as much as 63.45% of the total assets are the prerogative of foreign houses according to the most recent data from Mefop (the public company that supports pension funds) for 2023 – while only 136.55% is attributable to operators Italians. But let’s go in order.

As regards open pension funds and insurance PIPs (Individual Pension Plans), the entities that issue them are mostly Italian. In fact, the issuers coincide with the managers, asset management companies or companies within the various groups which then use the classic sales channels, both bank branches and insurance agencies and networks of financial consultants. It thus turns out that the Intesa Group (through Intesa Sp Vita and Fideuram Vita) – according to an analysis by Excellence Consulting on Covip data – is the leading management company in Italy of open pension funds with 5.829 billion euros. In second place is Arca with 4.288 billion. In third place is the French Amundi which, thanks to its marketing agreement with the Italian Unicredit, manages a good 2.2 billion. German Allianz follows with 1.596 billion, which has a large sales network in Italy. Fifth and sixth are Azimut (1.451 billion) and Generali with 1.312 billion.

In all, the top six operators (seven if we consider the two Intesa companies separately) have 16.677 billion under management, 59% of the total, which amounts to 28.047 billion. Prevalence of Italian operators also in insurance PIPs: the Generali world is obviously clearly in first place, with 8.68 billion with its own brand and 6.13 with Alleanza, for a total of 43% of the overall assets. Poste Vita is in second place with 10.84 billion and a market share of 24%. Then there are: Mediolanum (4.89 billion and 11%); Allianz first foreign company – with 2.7 and 6%; UnipolSai with 1.2 and 3%; in seventh place is the British Gamalife, with 1.17 billion and 3%. Things change when we move on to occupational pension funds, whose assets are 64.5 billion. Here there is no territorial sales network set up, but only a pure and simple competition to acquire the masses. The first manager is once again the Intesa group with Eurizon Capital, which owns 14.85% of the assets. The fifth (Generali with 8.45%) and the sixth (UnipolSai with 7% of total assets) are also Italian.

The list of Italian managers continues with Anima (5.31%), in ninth place, and with Azimut, in nineteenth and with a secondary share (0.94%). In all, the Italian companies in the top twenty places collect 36.55% of the total assets under management. Great success, however, for a fierce and large group of foreign groups, among which stand out, in second, third and fourth place respectively, Amundi (9.94% of the total), Blackrock (9.63%) and Axa (8 ,53%). Thus the Italy of supplementary pensions becomes an easy land of conquest for them. Among the top twenty groups we also find Allianz, Credit. Suisse, Groupama, Pimco, Candriam, State Street, Payden & Rygel, Schroders, HSBC, Ostrum, Fisher and Bnp Paribas. Also competing for a share of the profits on the management of the assets of the trading funds are various consultancy companies, which carry out the investigation on behalf of the boards of directors. Among the Italian companies there are Mangusta, Bruni Marino, European Investment Consulting srl; between the foreign companies Mercer and B Finance.

But Prometeia Advisory Sim stands out above all, carrying out the lion’s share of events, also organizing a couple of meetings a year, inviting both managers and funds. But why are management mandates to foreign groups paramount in negotiated funds? «In the tenders called by the boards of directors of occupational funds – says Maurizio Agazzi, former general director of Cometa, the largest occupational fund, and now a self-employed pension consultant – it is necessary to take into account a series of factors listed in the Covip regulation, including quality of management teams, track record, assets under management and expertise. All factors that benefit international competitors, who manage much larger masses than Italian managers and who have powerful structured and dedicated divisions in our country.” In short, in Italy there are important managers but none, it is useless to delude ourselves, have the track records and pedigrees of giants such as Blackrock, Allianz or HSBC. Therefore the prevalence of foreign houses is inevitable. «Moreover – continues Agazzi – in Italy there are few niche funds, since there has not been an adequate development of financial boutiques». Finally, the foreign houses, which arrived here about twenty years ago with very high commissions, have also been able to adapt to the smaller Italian market, where instead very low management fees are sought by the boards of directors.

Occupational pension funds have extremely low fees. On average, managing equity forms costs half the average of similar open-end funds and a third compared to PIPs. But is it really a good thing to bet on such low fees? The idea is gaining ground among experts that it would be better to consider the net performance (i.e. returns minus costs) that a manager has over time. For Giampiero Malagnino, deputy vice president of Enpam, the supplementary pension fund for doctors, «it is time that the boards of directors thought less about costs and more about the ability to obtain good performances. The frantic attention to costs is largely influenced by the comparison table that Covip publishes periodically.” The other problem is that the structure of the calls for tenders may not be able to avoid certain obstacles. Think of Cometa, the metalworkers’ fund that saw Credit Suisse win just as the Swiss group’s problems emerged. Cometa then did not carry out the mandate but the problem emerged. A third element for reflection is given by the professionalism and financial culture of the boards of directors of closed-end funds, which are not always up to par. For Maurizio Agazzi «it is advisable to create a good financial office within the fund and also a risk manager, so that the board of directors has more strength towards external consultants. The preliminary analysis should be carried out internally.”


L’Istituto del “Whistleblowing” è riconosciuto come strumento fondamentale nell’emersione di illeciti; per il suo efficace operare è pero cruciale assicurare una protezione adeguata ed equilibrata ai segnalanti. In tale ottica, al fine di garantire che i soggetti segnalanti siano meglio protetto da ritorsioni e conseguenze negative, e incoraggiare l’utilizzo dello strumento, in Italia è stato approvato il D.Lgs. n.24 del 10 marzo 2023 a recepimento della Direttiva (UE) 2019/1937 riguardante la protezione delle persone che segnalano violazioni.

Il decreto persegue l’obiettivo di rafforzare la tutela giuridica delle persone che segnalano violazioni di disposizioni normative nazionali o europee, che ledono gli interessi e/o l’integrità dell’ente pubblico o privato di appartenenza, e di cui siano venute a conoscenza nello svolgimento dell’attività lavorativa.


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