Update FPA on behalf of the COR and Frans Everts

The Central Staff Council (‘the COR’) and Shell Netherlands (‘Shell NL’) have been regularly and constructively discussing the future of our pensions for some time now. The reason for these is the new Future of Pensions Act. Good progress has been made and that means we are entering the next phase. In this phase, the VOEKS (‘Association of former employees of Shell’) Hearing Rights Committee (‘VHC’) will exercise its so-called legal “hearing right” and give its opinion on the draft transition plan that reflects the proposal for a new pension scheme and the transition.

This opinion will then be taken into account by the COR and Shell NL in the follow-up discussions. This will take some time. After this, the intended proposal as discussed with the COR and with the VHC will be submitted to the COR via a formal request for consent. The consent of the COR is needed before any changes can be implemented. We will therefore only be able to provide more information about our new pension scheme and the transitional measures in a few months’ time.

In addition, in this next phase, we will also continue the iterative and preparatory discussions with the boards of the pension funds (SNPS and SSPF). The boards have the task of assessing the new pension scheme for feasibility and balance, among other things. This means they must assess whether all interests have been properly weighed in the process. To this end, an internal decision-making process takes place within the funds. After the decision of the funds, the new scheme will have to be implemented. We aim to implement the changes to the SNPS scheme by 1 January 2026. For the SSPF scheme, this is 1 January 2027.

Both the COR and Shell NL appreciate the constructive cooperation and confidently look forward to the next phase in the process.

5 questions about the changes

We get a lot of questions from employees. You’ll find below the most important, more technical, questions and their answers.

 

1. In case my pension is converted into the new scheme, it will increase quite a bit. Why is this? 

The Pensions Act entails a major change in the pension system in the Netherlands. These changes relate, among other things, to the tax framework that applies to pensions. By converting the accrued pensions (which is the default), different tax rules will apply to your pension and you will be able to take full advantage of this. This is because there is no longer a limit when it comes to the increase of your pension as a result of positive investment returns. Participants who can invest for a number of years and have a so-called long investment horizon will benefit the most from this. The longer the horizon, the greater the benefit for the (active) participants. In addition, the buffers of the pension fund will be shared with the participants in the case of conversion, which will increase this positive effect even further. This is a one-time opportunity that will potentially lead to a significantly higher expected pension. Although, in the new scheme, the investment risks will be taken on by the participants. It is expected that this will provide a significant benefit in almost all cases.

 

2. What about the calculations and when will employees be given insight into the calculations and considerations made by Shell NL and the COR?

 Our projections are calculated by a third party, Ortec. Ortec is the market leader in the Netherlands and works as an independent party for Shell. Ortec is also working for the pension fund. Ortec has internal certification on its processes and also internal controls to monitor the quality of the data. In addition, Ortec’s calculations are checked by our own actuaries and the actuary of the works council. We are currently in close talks with the Central Works Council and are also discussing the results of the various calculations there.

Ultimately, the transition plan will explain how the social partners (Shell NL and the COR) view the transition. This explanation will also clarify how Shell NL and the COR interpret the open standards (such as a “balanced decision” or “disproportionately unfavourable”) referred to in the Future Pensions Act. We consider the interests of all groups of participants and take the different perspectives into account. For example, the expected consequences (both positive and negative) and the impact of a higher or lower funding ratio at the time of conversion must be considered. Ultimately, there must be a balanced transition. The considerations and choices will ultimately be included in the transition plan. This tran- sition plan is an appendix to the COR’s request for consent and is also made public to all participants.

 

3. What assumptions are used for the calculations?

To make the calculations, Ortec has developed special software that is used for many pension funds in the Netherlands and also for us. In this software, 2,000 scenarios are projected based on economic scenario sets prescribed by the Dutch Central Bank. Different assumptions apply to each scenario, so there isn’t such a thing as basic assumption. However, we can say that on average in the long term, a return of 5.6% on equities, 2.0% on bonds and 2.1% inflation is assumed. The 2,000 scenarios are also based on so-called stress scenarios: what if things go very badly, but also what if things go very well. An example of such a stress scenario is stagflation, in which there are negative stock returns in combination with high inflation for a longer period of time. The economic projections to determine the pension outcomes are made for the full expected life span of the participants. Scenarios in which participants live longer or shorter are not considered separately.

 

4. How do the experts view DNB’s scenarios? What if things get worse?

Every company and pension fund will have to work with these scenario sets. In addition to the most likely scenarios, these sets also contain very extreme scenarios. This involves a lot of work and although the scenarios will not cover everything, these calculations do provide a good overview of what can be expected. These sets also take into account extreme situations that are projected in the future. Due to political pressure, DNB’s scenarios contain many more very unreal situations than was previously the case. In this sense, the scenarios are seen as pessimistic rather than optimistic. The Government wants us to provide insight into these scenarios. Despite the fact that these are extreme and in all likelihood will not happen, everyone will also see these scenarios on their pension overview.

We understand that it is important that all interests are properly taken into account, even in a situation in which things suddenly take a turn for the worse. That’s why we set the bar high and don’t want to enter at all costs. We only want to make a request for entry if it is clearly better for the participants. Not only in the expected scenario, but we want the participants to benefit in a large majority of the scenarios. In doing so, we also look specifically at the stress scenarios mentioned, in which things go much worse. We are looking at this together with the COR.

 

5. What does this transition mean for me?

During the information sessions, we showed personas to give you insight into the possible consequences of conversion or leaving behind the pensions. We will update these personas based on the latest figures. We will also add new personas and explain how to read these graphs.

 With these examples, you can get a pretty good idea of how the changes will impact your pension. Unfortunately, precise details of the new pension expectations at the individual level are not yet available and will take some time. Through the pension fund, you will eventually receive an individual overview showing you exactly what the effect on your pension is. It is not yet clear exactly when this will happen, but it will probably only be possible around the time when the transition actually takes place, because all systems must also be set up for this and the situation at the time of the transition determines the actual outcomes. So, that could take a few more years.

New rules for your partner’s pension

New rules for your partner’s pension
As the new legislation is in place, we also know that the pension for your partner is changing. We call this pension the survivor’s pension. This is the pension that your dependents (partner and any children) will receive after your death.

In the new pension system the survivor’s pension will be arranged differently. The most important change is the way the survivor’s pension is calculated if you pass away before you retire. Currently, the level depends on the level of your own retirement pension. But this will change. In the new system, the level of the survivor’s pension is a fixed percentage of your salary, regardless of your age. Shell Netherlands and the COR are currently discussing the level the survivor’s pension should be in the new scheme.

It is good to know that as long as you work (and for a limited period thereafter) a survivor’s pension is automatically insured. If you leave employment, you have the opportunity to maintain the coverage for the survivor’s pension. This can be useful if you (temporarily) do not join another company (and accrue pension) after leaving Shell. Right now, you don’t have that option. Shell and the Works Council jointly decide the level of coverage in the new system.

When you retire, you can decide whether you want to arrange a survivor’s pension as well as a pension for yourself. Employees who participate in the SNPS-scheme, already have this option. Would you like to know more about your current survivor’s pension? Use the pension planner on Shellpensioen.nl

Your involvement in the pension changes

Shell Netherlands is currently discussing the changes to our pension as a result of the Future Pensions Act (WTP) with the Central Works Council (COR). In recent weeks we have received many questions from employees and other participants about how they can give their view on the upcoming changes.

The government has explicitly aimed to ensure proper involvement of all participants, but has deliberately chosen not to include an individual right of objection in the new legislation. The intention of the government is to enable a good transition to the new system. An individual right of consent would make the transition considerably more complex and virtually impossible. Another factor is that it is a very complex matter and that many people may not be able to properly oversee or assess the consequences. Adequate involvement of the participants is therefore guaranteed in other ways.

At Shell, the pension agreement is a topic that is discussed with the COR. The COR has a right of consent; This is regulated by law. Shell Netherlands and the COR must go through a careful process, in which a comprehensive transition plan is drawn up by Shell, in which all choices and considerations must be included. The changes affect not only Shell employees, but also former employees (the so-called deferred members) and pensioners. Shell Netherlands and the COR must take all interests of all parties involved into account and, ultimately, take a balanced and informed decision. The COR is supported by an expert and has also set up a WTP working group. In addition, the COR regularly consults a sounding board group that includes colleagues who have knowledge about pensions.

 The other participants must also be involved in the process. The representative associations of pensioners and deferred members (at Shell this is VOEKS) have a hearing right and can thus give their opinion on the transition plan. Shell Netherlands and the COR will also have to take this opinion into account in the final decision-making process. Once a decision has been taken, that decision is then submitted to the pension fund. The pension fund must then review that decision and, among other things, assess whether the requirement of a balanced decision has been met. In addition, the pension fund will also seek advice from the Accountability Body, in which, among other things, pensioners are represented. In this way, the government has safeguarded a very careful process with all kinds of stakeholders.  

At Shell, we implement these legal safeguards very carefully. For example, we have been in discussions with the VOEKS hearing rights committee since the beginning of this year to include them in the decisions to be taken and various aspects that are important in this regard and also to receive their input and feedback. This also applies to the COR, with which we have been holding information sessions about the upcoming changes since the beginning of last year.

Additional information sessions

Due to the high turnout at the information sessions in June and July, we have decided to organize two more information sessions. These will take place on September 12 and 14. The sessions are intended for Shell employees only.

 

You can sign up here.

 

A message from Frans Everts

Frans Everts, CEO of Shell Netherlands, has sent a message to all colleagues about the Future of Pension Act. The message has also been posted in the VOEKS news and distributed by email to pensioners and former colleagues. Please read the message below.

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After years of negotiations, the new Future Pensions Act was passed in the Senate on 30 May 2023. The law will enter into force on 1 July 2023. The government considers it important that everyone receives a good pension in the future, including the generations to come. With the current system, this is not feasible. That is why all pension schemes in the Netherlands must be amended. Also those of Shell. We have no choice in this. I would like to inform you about the steps we will take to this end.

What will change?
In any case, what does not change is that Shell considers pension to be one of the most important parts of our employment conditions in The Netherlands. Together with the Central Staff Council (COR), we will agree on a good new pension scheme for everyone. We want to do this carefully and through constructive dialogue with the COR and other parties involved such as the board of the pension funds and the association for former colleagues and pensioners (VOEKS).

We currently have three different pension schemes. Changes will take place in all three. To give an example: for new employees who enter the SNPS scheme, one fixed pension contribution will soon apply (while at the moment the amount of the contribution depends on someone’s age). Whether this also changes for current SNPS members (in service from 1 July 2013) will be discussed with the COR. What remains, is that these employees already have their own pension pot, which moves with economic developments. Employees who are currently accruing pension in the SSPF scheme will also start to accrue pension in their own pension pot. In addition, we are talking to the COR about how we can best deal with the already accrued pensions of Shell colleagues – and former colleagues – in the SSPF fund. These decisions are important and must be taken within the legal framework that follows from the FPA. This framework aims to complete the transition in a balanced and careful manner. That is also our goal. 

Inform yourself
The consequences of the changes for you personally depend on many factors. At the moment, these are not yet clear. Of course, we will also let you know later in the process what the changes mean for you personally.

I can imagine that this raises questions That is why we think it is important to inform you about the developments in our pension now. This month and next, we are organising information meetings at various Shell locations in which we will update you on the process. I cordially invite you to register for one of these meetings HERE. Also keep an eye on Yammer for more information about the meetings. 

In addition, in recent months we have been working with the pension funds on www.nieuwpensioenbijshell.nl, a website where you can find all important information about the Future of Pensions Act, current developments and possible scenarios for the future. I advise you to keep a close eye on this website to stay informed about your new pension. Step by step, we will work together towards a new pension in the coming years.

Conversion or leaving behind

info@priqqel.nl

In principle, the new law applies to everyone, including pensioners and former colleagues. The new pension law is based on the principle that both accrued pension entitlements and pensions of pensioners will be converted to the new system. The new law offers an opportunity to deviate from this principle. This is possible if converting existing pension rights is disproportionately unfavourable for (some of) the stakeholders. The stakeholders include current employees, pensioners, former colleagues and the employer. If the exception can be used, the accrued pensions will remain in the existing pension scheme. The new pension scheme will then only apply to the future.

Whether or not the accrued pension will be transferred to the new scheme is part of the discussions that Shell has with the COR and the pension fund about the future of the pension. Also VOEKS (the association of former Shell employees) plays a role. On the basis of the new law, VOEKS is entitled, with a view to representing the interests of deferred members and pensioners, to give its view on the decisions that need to be taken. This is the so-called  ‘hearing right’.

An important principle in the Future Pensions Act (WTP) is that the accrued pensions are converted into the new pension system. The accrued pensions then become part of your personal pension pot in the new scheme. In case of conversion, any guarantees from the employer will disappear.

In the new pension system, reserves (buffers) are no longer needed. That is why these buffers become available for distribution. This can be done by adding the buffers (whether or not spread out over several years) to the individual pension pots of the various participants or by reserving them to mitigate certain risks. The buffers can also be used to financially compensate for the consequences of the new system for the future pension accrual of employees. How the buffers will be distributed depend on the transitional measures that Shell NL will discuss with the COR. The pension fund is also involved in this.

Thus, the principle in the new pension law is conversion. But the WTP offers an opportunity to deviate from this principle. This is possible if conversion is disproportionately unfavourable for (some of) the stakeholders. The stakeholders include current employees, pensioners, former colleagues (deferred members) and the employer. If the exception is used, the accrued pensions will remain in the existing pension scheme. Shell’s guarantee and the annual indexation will also remain valid. But the existing buffers remain in the pension fund and are not available for distribution among the participants. In that case, SSPF becomes a ‘hard-closed pension fund’.

We will look at both options with the Central Staff Council and the Shell pension funds when designing the new pension scheme and the transitional measures for existing participants. The interests of all those involved must be taken into account. There must be a balanced decision.

FAQ’s accrued pension

As a result of the Future Pensions Act (WTP), all pension schemes in the Netherlands will change. In principle, a change in the pension scheme only affects the future accrual. But the WTP also makes it possible to convert the accrued and entered pensions into the new pension scheme. In this case the accrued pensions of employees and former colleagues (deferred members), but also the pension benefits of the pensioners, are converted into the new pension scheme.

In the case of conversion, the accrued or already entered pension is converted into a personal pension pot that will move with economic developments according to the set-up of the premium scheme. Conversion is the main principle in the new pension law as the government wants the old and new pensions to be integrated and to be covered by the new rules.

The WTP does offer an opportunity to deviate from this principle. This is possible if conversion is disproportionately unfavourable for (some of) the stakeholders. The stakeholders include current employees, pensioners, former colleagues and the employer. If the exception is used, the accrued pensions will remain in the existing pension scheme at SSPF. For current employees, the new premium scheme will apply only to the future accrual.

The main principle under the new pension law is that accrued and pensions of pensioners are converted into the new scheme. But the new pension law provides an opportunity to deviate from that principle. Since it will no longer be possible to continue to accrue pension in the current SSPF pension scheme, deviating from that main principle is also called ‘leaving behind pensions’. In that case, the current SSPF scheme and the pension fund will be ‘hard closed’. That means that the pensions already accrued and the pensions of the pensioners are left behind, in accordance with the rules that currently apply to them. For the employees, this means that the accrued pension remain in SSPF (according to the current rules), but that in the future they will accrue pension in a new premium scheme (according to the new rules). If you have already left Shell, then in fact nothing changes for you.

In order to be able to leave the pensions behind, certain conditions must be met, which is not automatically possible. It requires Shell and the COR to agree that conversion of the accrued pension is disproportionately unfavourable for (some of) the stakeholders.  They will then not ask the pension fund to convert the pensions.

Conversion has several advantages.

  • Accrued pensions and the pensions from pensioners can benefit directly from the benefits of the new pension system; this can be beneficial if things are going well economically. In the current scheme, agreements have been made about the annual pension increases; these are in fact capped. In the new system, there is no longer any restriction and pensions can be increased indefinitely.
  • In the new pension system, reserves (buffers) are no longer needed. That is why these buffers become available for distribution. This can be done by adding the buffers (whether or not spread out over several years) to the individual pension pots of the various participants or by reserving them to mitigate certain risks. The buffers can also be used to financially compensate for the consequences of the new system for the future pension accrual of employees.
  • The new and already accrued pension are administrated in one pension scheme. For employees, this is more transparent and easy to understand. Communication about this is also easier.
  • The implementation of one single pension scheme is administratively easier, cheaper and easier to control for pension funds.
  • Conversion is in line with the government’s thoughts about the new system; it is also in line with what will apply to the majority of employees, former colleagues (deferred members) and pensioners in the Netherlands. It is sustainable and future-proof.

At the moment, Shell’s pensions in SSPF have a high level of security due to the employer’s guarantee. This guarantee is no longer allowed in the new system. If the pensions are to be converted, the guarantee will expire not only for the future, but also for the pension that has already been accrued or started.  The rules of the new pension system then apply to your total pension (both the pension already accrued and yet to be accrued, and the pension of the pensioners).

In the new pension system, your personal pension pot moves in line with economic developments. If things are going well economically, this leads to an increase in the pot, but if things are going badly economically, you will also notice that. If the pensions are converted, the pensions that you have already accrued or that has already started will also move in line with the markets. This can lead to fluctuations in your pension. The risks of this can be mitigated by the pension fund by holding reserves (buffers).

There are legal rules to calculate the impact of conversion and how much everyone gets in the personal pension pot. One of the conditions is that participants receive at least the value of the accrued entitlements, provided that the pension fund has sufficient capital. That is the case with Shell.  In that sense, no money gets lost.

Depending on the funding ratio of the fund, there may be capital left with the fund afterwards. We call these the buffers of the fund. These buffers can be used/distributed in different ways. In the new system, it is no longer mandatory to have any buffers. For example, the buffers can be used to limit risks. The buffers can also be used to compensate for any difference in future pension accrual or to increase individual pension entitlements or accrued pensions. A combination is also possible. For the distribution of the buffers, it will be necessary to look separately at how they are distributed in a balanced way.

The fact that your pension will move in line with the market in the new system can have both a positive and negative effect. If things are going well economically, you will immediately notice this by an increase in your pension, but economically less positive circumstances are also noticeable. There are several ways to mitigate this risk in the new pension system.

  • If you accrue a pension in a flexible premium scheme (such as Shell’s SNPS scheme), you can choose an investment profile yourself, depending on the risks you want to take. For example, you can choose a profile where you run more risk (offensive), run little risk (defensive) or a neutral profile. If you do not make a choice, you automatically invest via a smart default in which the investment risks move in line with your life phase.
  • You can opt for a variable pension, and you can gradually transfer your pension capital, starting ten years before you retire; the risks in your investments are then reduced. This also applies to the pensions of pensioners. The pensions of pensioners are invested more defensively by the pension fund. As a result, less risk is taken with these pensions.
  • When you retire, you can again choose between a variable pension with the pension fund (which will then move with the investment results) or a fixed pension with an external insurer.. A variable pension means that your pension will also be invested after your retirement date. With a variable pension, it is possible that the pension benefits fluctuate in amount. The risk of this is reduced by spreading the investment returns out over several years. This can prevent large fluctuations in the pension. Choosing a fixed pension means that the amount of the pension is certain, but there may be no indexation and no prospect of a higher pension.
  • If there are buffers in the pension fund, these buffers can be (partly) used by the pension fund to reduce risks (by a one-off (or spread over several years) increase in pensions and/or by reserving new buffers to absorb certain future risks.
  • If the pensions are converted and you are already retired, you will then have a one-off choice between a variable pension with the pension fund (which will then move with the investment results) or a fixed pension with an external insurer. If a fixed pension is chosen, the amount of the pension is certain, but there may be no indexation and no prospect of a higher pension.

The WTP assumes a collective conversion of pensions in case of conversion. This means that this transposition, if so decided, will apply to everyone. It is not possible to make an individual choice for the new pension system or to stay in the current system; there is also no possibility to object individually as a participant. However, the legislator has built in a number of safeguards to ensure that a careful process is followed.

Shell and the Central Staff Council will discuss together whether Shell will ask the pension fund to convert the accrued pensions. This is done in consultation with the pension fund and the VOEKS hearing rights committee.


A careful process is followed. The employer is having discussions with the COR and with VOEKS (the Association of Former Employees of the “Royal/Shell”). VOEKS has a right to be heard. Ultimately, a request for conversion will have to be made to the board of the pension fund. The board will then decide whether to grant the request, whereby various guarantees also apply within the pension fund via the Accountability Body and the Supervisory Board. Ultimately, there must be a balanced decision for all stakeholders, including the employer.

COR
The COR has a right of consent with regard to a proposed amendment to the pension agreement between the employer and the employee. This right of consent also governs the decision whether or not to submit a request for conversion to the pension fund. The discussions with the COR have been going on for some time and as soon as there is an intended decision, the COR will also be formally asked for approval. A pension committee has been set up within the COR in which specific knowledge about pensions is present. We value a good consultation and therefore have regular discussions with both the pension committee and the COR about the developments. In these discussions, the consequences of the new legislation are discussed in detail.

VOEKS
The WTP has determined that Shell and the COR must not only look at the interests of employees and the employer, but also at those of pensioners and deferred members, with regard to the changes resulting from the new law.

In addition, the WTP gives a representative association of pensioners and/or deferred members the opportunity to express their opinion to Shell and the COR before the decisions on the new scheme are taken. This is called the ‘hearing right’. Shell and the COR must then take that opinion into account in their decision-making and also provide feedback on what has been done with that opinion. At Shell, VOEKS (the Association of Former Employees of the “Royal/Shell”) is such a representative association. VOEKS has now set up a hearing rights committee that is having discussions with Shell and the COR.

Pension Fund
Eventually – if Shell wants to convert the pensions – a request to this will have to be send to the board of SSPF. Following this request, the pension fund will have to go through its own decision-making process, which also includes various guarantees. For example, the Accountability Body must be asked for advice and the Supervisory Board has a right of approval.

All these steps should lead to a balanced decision ultimately being taken on whether or not to convert the accrued and pensions of pensioners, in which the interests of all stakeholders have been carefully weighed.

The government commissioned a detailed analysis of the legal risks because it wanted to ensure that the new pension system, like the current pension system, is legally sustainable. Among other things, ownership aspects and equal treatment were examined. The conclusion of this analysis is that the new pension system is legally sustainable. Of course, legal risks can never be completely ruled out. This will have to be demonstrated in practice in the coming years.

Would you like to know more about your accrued pension?

If you want to know more about your accrued pension, you can visit the website of the pension fund: www.shellpensioen.nl. See also the various contact options there.

If you have accrued pension with various pension providers, you can also look at the website www.mijnpensioenoverzicht.nl;  There you will find an overview of all your pension rights accrued so far. For this you will need your DigiD.

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