You were already at Asga before there was any mandatory 2nd pillar. What was it like back then?
Before the 2nd pillar became enshrined in law, it was only industrial companies that had retirement provision for their employees in most cases. Occupational pension provision was voluntary, and for small firms in particular it wasn’t really an option. Employers were sceptical due to the higher wage costs. But basically there was nothing along these lines for SMEs – certainly not in Eastern Switzerland. Gradually, however, social benefits became an important factor on the labour market – including for smaller companies. Companies had to accept their social responsibility in order to be able to recruit good employees.
As a co-operative, Asga doesn't have customers – it has members. Our members pay contributions rather than premiums – contributions to their own retirement provision.
Was there a need for a pension fund on the part of employees?
Almost none at all initially. The additional salary deductions sparked a degree of resistance among employees. We began visiting companies to talk to employees about occupational pension provision. Just one or two out of ten employees who attended these presentations showed any interest in joining the 2nd pillar. We nevertheless signed up these firms – even if not all employees joined the pension fund. Gradually the others came on board too. When it became clear that BVG/LPP mandatory coverage was on the horizon, we organised BVG/LPP information events. From Engadine to Thurgau, we invited those firms we knew of that didn’t have a pension fund as yet. Providing this personal information was very important, because people didn’t know much about the BVG/LPP as yet and needed things to be explained. The fact that founding Chairman Paul Bürgi was a member of the BVG/LPP Commission provided Asga with a good channel to Parliament and meant we were always well informed.
Asga then versus now: Who would have thought it?
Back then it was impossible to predict our future growth; our main aim was simply to provide good occupational pensions for members. Thanks to low administration costs and higher returns on retirement assets, Asga enjoyed rapid growth. Look at the size of Asga today – there’s no way we could have imagined that such potential existed.