What makes Asga different?
The fact that we’re still organised as a co-operative sets Asga apart from many other pension funds. Our members are all co-owners, the Delegates’ Assembly is the supreme governing body, and the interests of all those involved are very closely aligned. I see that as an immense privilege.
Because of this, and due to its history, Asga has a special status. But given that we’re now the largest independent occupational benefits institution, we need to be aware of our responsibility at all times. Sometimes radical decisions need to be taken too, even if most others are not (yet) prepared to do so. I remember the decision taken to set blanket conversion rates lower as 6% in the future – a very large number of pension funds have since come to that conclusion too.
What in your eyes has been the biggest change for Asga since joining the Board of Directors?
A huge amount has changed in the six-plus years since I came on board – not in terms of basic values, more in terms of organisation. That’s not least down to the more stringent requirements placed upon us. Countless processes have been optimised – and that’s set to continue with ever greater digitalisation and automation. Yet at the same time our focus is still on the individual. Also, big achievements such as the new investment organisation as well as the new business process management – in which all Asga processes are mapped and organised – are definitely very positive steps in my view. Of course, I’m also thrilled that the financial numbers are looking good – because at the end of the day that’s what really matters to our insureds.
But when I’m asked about why I like doing the job so much, I have to say the biggest factor is the strong commitment shown by the people who work at Asga as well as the many exciting new technical developments that are so important to our future. We believe in having a very open, critical, but above all constructive dialogue at Executive Board and Board of Directors level too. Our professional yet friendly approach, in which everyone’s opinion is treated with respect and which is actively encouraged by Chairman of the Board of Directors Stefan Bodmer as well as CEO Sergio Bortolin, is exemplary. And this too is very much in line with the co-operative spirit: working together with the same goal in mind.
The group of men around Asga’s founders achieved pioneering results. What pioneering achievements do you see in future, and how does the fact that women are now in key positions change things?
We’re unlikely to see a repeat of such pioneering achievements. However, we must succeed in bringing the overall occupational benefits framework into line with current conditions. As we’ve seen with the political debate surrounding AHV and BVG, this is already a major challenge and will continue to preoccupy politicians first and foremost, but also the pension funds themselves – both now and in the future.
Fortunately, the fact that women too are now sitting around the table is a reflection of the modern world. As with every committee with a diverse membership – whether in terms of gender, age or professional background – deliberations are likely to be more complex and decisions will be more broad-based. At the same time, it’s rare for women to have one particular opinion and men another. Even so, different perspectives can be helpful.
Fact is, however, it’s still the case that far too few women are interested in the subject of pension provision and underestimate what impact it has – not just on society but also on their own lives. That’s why I would seriously encourage women to tackle the subject of pensions and immerse themselves in it professionally. There are still too few of us willing to take responsibility in this area. There’s a lot at stake, you know – especially for women. To that extent it’s time for women to stop being afraid of the complexity of the subject and get involved at all decision-making levels.