Veritas, the €2.7bn Finnish pensions insurer, made a 5.8% total return on investments in 2015, down from 6.4% the year before, according to preliminary results.At the end of October, the Finnish pension fund said it made a 2.4% total return on investments in the first nine months of the year, so returns appear to have accelerated in the last quarter of 2015. The pensions firm said market volatility intensified at the end of last year in liquid risk assets such as equities and corporate bonds.Niina Bergring, investment director, said: “Diversification became increasingly important, and its importance will increase further.” Bergring said real estate investments, which had traditionally performed well for the pension provider, produced good returns over the course of last year.“The Finnish real estate market really woke up in the last year, and there were a lot of transactions,” she said.The global economic cycle is approaching a mature phase and the market outlook characterised by uncertainty, she said.Bergring said the Chinese economy was continuing to cause concern, and that Veritas had taken a cautious position regarding this country.This stance has been advantageous, she said.“In 2016, we are striving for a steady return with a moderate risk profile,” she said.According to the preliminary annual figures, Veritas’s solvency capital stood at around 28%, with the solvency ratio at 2.2%For 2014, Veritas reported its solvency capital at 29.1% of technical provisions, and the ratio as 2.2%.
Source = TravelManagers Australia Seventh agency collapse – How many more before government takes action to protect consumers?With the announcement this week that Parramatta based Value World Travel in New South Wales has collapsed with “hundreds of travellers being left $3 million out of pocket and others stranded” as reported in Wednesday’s issue of news.com.au, the question must be asked how many more agency collapses will it take for Government to take action.Since the disestablishment of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF), Value World Travel makes seven travel agencies being reported to have collapsed since 5th May 2015 with consumer losses as a direct result of these collapses to date, estimated to have reached in excess of $4.5 million.“If nothing else, these losses alone prove consumer protection against fraudulent actions of their travel agency is clearly no longer existent,” says TravelManagers’ Chairman Barry Mayo.Mayo strongly believes it is the state governments that are guilty of disbanding the TCF without ensuring the travelling public was provided with an effective form of consumer protection against travel agent insolvency.“It can no longer be disputed that consumer losses now being experienced is as a direct result of state governments disbanding the TCF and replacing it with an ill thought out industry accreditation scheme that failed to demand robust financial criteria or deliver consumer protection. Government and individual members of the industry need to acknowledge these consumer losses are not going to cease and recognise that an accreditation scheme without consumer compensation is worthless from both consumer and industry perspectives.”It is important to remind the travel agency community that $25 million dollars of TCF funds contributed by travel agents remains intact.“Immediate steps need to be taken to ensure these funds are used to reinstate a more robust financial oversight of the industry and provision of consumer protection. If action is not taken quickly to secure these funds to be used to protect the consumer as originally intended, this money paid by the travel agency community will be swallowed up into government funds and be accounted for as part of general revenue.”Mayo recognizes that these travel agencies may have also have failed under the TCF. However, their customers would not have been out-of-pocket.“We recognize there were shortcomings in the TCF as it previously stood and that with goodwill and common purpose these can be addressed to ensure a new replacement to the TCF is more equitable than some may have perceived.”The situation being experienced by these customers is precisely what TravelManagers and CHOICE Consumer Advocacy (CHOICE) were fearful of in their original submissions to Government.TravelManagers is a true customer advocate and Mayo has passionately lobbied from the outset that the industry needs to offer some form of universal consumer protection, sentiments that were also echoed by submissions from CHOICE to the Council of Australian Governments back in October 2012 in response to the COAG’s Draft Travel Industry Transition Plan.“CHOICE does not agree with the core proposition of the Travel Industry Transition Plan (‘the Plan’) which calls for the abolition of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF). We are not convinced that the replacement initiatives proposed (such as private insurance and credit card chargebacks) will satisfactorily address the problem of consumer loss due to agent insolvency.”Thirty years ago, uniform legislation was first introduced throughout Australia to provide consumer protection for the customers of defaulting travel agents. The Bills purpose was simple – to provide for the licensing of travel agents. It was seen as an important advance in consumer protection, as it was recognised that the incompetence or dishonesty of a travel agent could destroy a trip for which ordinary people have saved for a long time and which they may never have the chance to repeat.“This sentiment is still as real and valid as it was thirty years ago, however with the abolishment of the national scheme including the TCF, which provided consumers with some recourse, should their travel agent become insolvent is no longer. It is the consumer that is the biggest loser combined with declining consumer confidence in travel agencies growing with each negative media report,” reflects Mayo.About TravelManagers TravelManagers operates in all Australian States and is a wholly owned subsidiary of House of Travel, Australasia’s largest independent travel company which has a forecast turnover of $1.5 billion for 2015. TravelManagers is a sister company to Hoot Holidays, also owned by House of Travel, and has more than 480 personal travel managers throughout Australia with a dedicated support team at the company’s national partnership office in Sydney. TravelManagers places all customer money in a dedicated and audited Client Trust Account which is separate from the general business accounts, ensuring client funds are only used for client purchases. Join TravelManagersbecome a Personal Travel Manager here