Let’s be in no doubt: Europe has a pension problem — and corporations are being acutely affected. The cost of meeting pension promises made to past and present employees has risen dramatically since the global financial crisis. Falling interest rates have inflated pension liabilities and suppressed returns, while rising life expectancies mean pensions must be paid for longer. For businesses, a heady cocktail of quantitative easing, subdued inflation and slow economic growth has made pensions a major and ongoing concern.
A boardroom priority
“These are very unusual times,” concedes Joe Wicks, Co-Head of Pensions Solutions at Commerzbank. “Interest rates in the UK are at a 300-year low. Businesses across Europe are focused on their pension challenges like never before. Whether based in London, Paris or Frankfurt, there is a common theme: The cost of meeting pension promises has risen significantly in recent years. It’s keeping corporate treasurers and CFOs awake at night.”