Outstanding Industry Contribution 2016

Berhard Wiesner 

Game Changer

As soon as Bernhard Wiesner became head of pensions at Robert Bosch's headquarters near Stuttgart in 1991, he switched into top gear. He was an early believer that the pensions promise, financing and administration should be treated as one concept to ensure outstanding results.
This belief was evident in his enthusiasm to take advantage of a change in pensions law in Germany in 2002 that introduced the Pensionsfonds concept. To benefit optimally from the innovative and novel qualities of this new savings vehicle, under his direction, the company set up Bosch Pensionsfonds AG – the first pension scheme of its kind at a German industrial group. The logical next step was to place the new plan at the heart of the company's wider Vorsorge (benefits) package.
The Pensionsfonds is a hybrid, comprising a defined contribution-type accumulation coupled with a nominal guarantee. By implementing the prudent person principle, Wiesner was able to ensure a high level of protection with excellent risk-bearing capacity to provide the best possible returns for the scheme's members.
Wiesner's vision was to create a modern, high-performing occupational arrangement that could meet any challenge. This consists of best-in-class highly professional external partners for fiduciary management to ensure a holistic approach to strategic consulting, asset liability management, investment strategy implementation, independent investment controlling, global custody, administration, state-of-the-art communication and a portfolio of 25 highly specialised fund managers. With this set-up Bosch Pensionsfonds has proven its ability to weather the financial market and current low interest environment storm. So far it has achieved an average annual return for its beneficiaries of 6% in its main segment.
Taking responsibility for Bosch's pensions worldwide, Wiesner masterminded the transition to state-of-the-art, sustainable and convincing pension systems across the group. His many achievements include the smooth transition to contribution-based systems in countries such as the US, UK and Japan, where the nationwide pension plans cover all the subsidiaries within a given country. To achieve this, he oversaw the design and implementation of a highly efficient governance model outlining global mandates for actuarial activities and insurance broking within global guidelines issued in conjunction with the group's finance and accounting department. With his concept at Bosch, Wiesner could also be seen as a leading contributor in laying the foundation for the future development of a pan-European pension fund.
Wiesner's influence goes well beyond the confines of the Bosch group. He has served as a member on the committee for occupational pensions of the German employer association (BDA), was the first employer representative on EIOPA's Occupational Pensions Stakeholder Group (OPSG) and will remain on the board of ABA, Germany's occupational pensions association, for at least another year.
He has also been instrumental in the development of the regulatory framework for pension funds in Germany. Consequently Wiesner became one of the most highly valued industry representatives for politicians and the authorities as a far-sighted and knowledgeable expert on corporate pensions models. Moreover, in Brussels as well as Berlin, he continually highlighted the importance of voluntary, nonprofit, company-based pension plans that are set up in mutual agreement between employer and employee representatives and played a significant role in convincing politicians in Germany and Europe to develop a supervisory regime that strengthens occupational pensions.
His latest and possibly greatest achievement was the development of a new and innovative way for German Pensionsfonds to payout pensions annuities. This became law in Germany in 2015. The new concept constitutes the first real challenge and major reform of the formerly rigid insurance-like annuity that limited the ways German pension funds paid their retirees their pension income. The result is a more flexible and generous pay-out structure known as the Bosch Law, since the fund developed the concept and presented it to the German government.
After influencing and forming the pensions industry for over 25 years, Wiesner retired in the autumn of 2015 but his contribution in both Germany and elsewhere is undeniable.

Bernhard sadly passed away in March 2017 aged 62 in a road accident in Mallorca where he lived since retiring in 2016. 
Judge's comment:
"An impressive record and outstanding career, creating a pioneering role for Bosch's scheme in Germany and Europe"
  • ​Career spanning 25 years in pensions
  • Created first corporate Pensionsfonds in Germany
  • Oversaw group pensions governance integration worldwide
  • Influential in the development of crossborder European pensions concept
  • New pay-out structure led to pensions reform in Germany in 2015-16