Finpension 3a Review: An excellent third pillar

By Baptiste Wicht | Updated: | Investing, Switzerland

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Finpension just started their third pillar offer: Finpension 3a. And it is extremely interesting. So much so that I started using them!

Finpension is already behind valuepension, the best vested benefits (second pillar) account available in Switzerland. So, it is great that they now started offering a third pillar account.

So, let’s review Finpension 3a in detail.

In this article, I look at many things about Finpension 3a: their fees, their investment strategy, and their security. Finally, I also compare it against other third pillar providers.

And if you use my code, you will have a chance to win 6883 CHF in your third pillar!

Finpension 3a

Best Third Pillar!
Finpension 3a

Finpension 3a is the best third pillar in Switzerland.

Use the FEYKV5 code to get a chance to win 6883 CHF in your third pillar*!

*(if you deposit 1000 CHF in the first 12 months)

Pros:
  • Invest 99% in stocks

Finpension 3a is a pension foundation managed by finpension AG. Finpension 3a is related to the third pillar offer. But finpension has managed other kinds of pension assets, such as vested benefits with their valuepension offering, since 2017.

Finpension started with the yourpension collective foundation, a 1e pension plan. Customers liked it so much that they wanted to keep their account after they stopped working. So, finpension started their vested benefits offering (valuepension). And now, they have begun their third pillar offering: finpension 3a, in 2020.

It is important to note the foundation itself is separated from the management company itself. Doing so allows for having a clear separation of books for the assets.

There are two ways to access the third pillar account:

  • A mobile application, available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.
  • A web application, available on all browsers.

I greatly appreciate the fact that they have a web application as well.

If you want more information, I interviewed finpension’s CEO.

Investment Strategies

Finpension 3a is heavily focused on investing in the stock market. For this goal, they offer access to 6 different strategies:

  • Finpension Equity 0
  • Finpension Equity 20
  • Finpension Equity 40
  • Finpension Equity 60
  • Finpension Equity 80
  • Finpension Equity 100

The number in the strategy is the allocation to stocks in the portfolio. The rest of the portfolio is allocated to bonds and 9% to real estate. But each strategy has 1% allocated to cash. For instance, Finpension Equity 100 is 99% stocks and 1% cash. Finpension Equity 60 has 60% stocks, 30% bonds, 9% real estate, and 1% cash. Finpension Equity 0 has 99% allocated to bonds and 1% in cash.

And on top of these strategies, you can choose three different investment focuses:

  • Global: A globally diversified portfolio.
  • Switzerland: A portfolio with a focus on primarily Swiss equities.
  • Sustainable: A portfolio investing only in sustainable companies, mainly with ESG principles.

So, together, you can choose between 18 strategies. There should be enough for everybody! If you are not satisfied with the strategy proposed, you can create your own strategy. For this, you will be able to pick in their large range of index funds.

finpension 3a does not invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) but in index funds. There are several advantages to doing that, from a pension foundation perspective:

  • They can reclaim the withholding taxes on dividends on foreign stocks.
  • There is no stamp duty to pay for these funds compared to ETFs.
  • They access extremely cheap funds that are normally reserved for institutional investors.

To be precise, they invest in Credit Suisse institutional funds, which are large, efficient, and affordable.

The website details all the strategies very well. You can see in which index funds each strategy is investing in. For instance, here is the finpension equity 100 strategy:

Finpension 3a: Equity 100 Investing Strategy Global
Finpension 3a: Equity 100 Investing Strategy Global

This strategy has a good mix of Swiss Stocks and Global Stocks. And it also has a good diversification between small caps and large caps. If I were doing it myself, I would use fewer funds, but this strategy should be a good fit for most people.

Keep in mind that you cannot be uninvested with Finpension 3a. You cannot have an account with 100% in cash. If you do not want to invest 99% in stocks, you will have to invest in bonds. The problem is that currently, Swiss and European bonds have negative yields. As such, they are a poorer investment than cash. This state may change in the future, but this is the case. So, strategies that invest in bonds are not that good.

Creating your custom strategy can be done from the mobile application. It is straightforward, and you have very few limits on what you are doing. You can invest 99% in a World index fund (minus CH), and you will have an extremely simple and well-diversified portfolio. And it will be an extremely cheap portfolio! One of the limits you have is that you cannot have too much invested in a single stock. You will have limits on Swiss Stock Market Indexes that are heavily weighted in three giant companies.

It is interesting to note that all of their strategies have only 1% cash. You cannot have a cash third pillar account.  However, if you choose a custom strategy, you can use a money market fund. So, you will be able to invest mainly in stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternatives.

Interestingly, Finpension 3a is the first third pillar to allow investments in cryptocurrencies as an alternative investment, next to gold. In December 2021, they started allowing investing in a crypto market fund, up to 5% of your third pillar. This fund is quite expensive (like all crypto funds so far), but is an index fund of cryptocurrencies. I would not recommend investing in that fund, but many people will be happy about that!

Finpension 3a uses the cash in your account (after a deposit) to buy shares of the funds on the first banking day of the week. And if you want to change strategy (free of charge!), Finpension 3a will do the change on the first banking day of each week.

Your portfolio will be rebalanced once a week, on the first banking day of the week. Rebalancing happens if the allocated deviates for more than one percentage point.

It is interesting to note that you can disable rebalancing. For each of your portfolio, you can choose to disable rebalancing. For most people, I would recommend keeping rebalancing by default, but some people appreciate the fact that rebalancing is optional.

Overall, the investing strategies of the finpension 3a accounts are great! I do not have much to say about it. They offer a great allocation to stocks, a great diversification, and an excellent ability to customize the portfolio. And on top of that, they do not force currency hedging on you, which is another excellent thing.

However, if you do not want to invest 99% in stocks, you will be forced to invest in negative-yielding bonds. So, these accounts are great for 99% in stocks but not that great for people with a smaller allocation to stocks.

Finpension 3a Fees

Now that we have seen their investing strategies let’s look at the fees of investing with finpension 3a.

Finpension is using a flat rate for their fees. This flat rate is set at 0.39%, without VAT. With a VAT of 7.7%, this flat rate is 0.42%. Therefore, we will use 0.42% as the base fee. The 0.39% fee is the marketing number.

On top of that, you will pay the product costs. These costs depend on which strategy you are using. Fortunately, finpension is an institutional client of  Credit Suisse. And institutional clients can get zero-fees on some of the index funds. So most of the funds will have zero fees. There are a few exceptions like Real Estate funds and Emerging Funds. But even these exceptions have very low fees.

For instance, the finpension Equity 100 strategy has 0.02% product costs. And even better, if you do a custom strategy, you can reach 0.00% product costs!

Zero TER for a custom strategy with Finpension 3a
Zero TER for a custom strategy with Finpension 3a

So, with the Equity 100 strategy (the best strategy for the long-term), you will have total costs of 0.44% per year! This fee is incredibly low, 10% cheaper than the cheapest alternative! And if you use a custom strategy, you can reach 0.42%!

And it is really it! Finpension does not charge any margin on foreign currency exchanges. But the bank they are using has a spread of 0.05% on currency conversion. However, many of their funds are in CHF.

However, we have to keep in mind that most of the funds used by Finpension have small load and redemption fees. They seem to have 0.02% to 0.1% fees on load and redemption. You can look at the fact sheet of each fund to see the detail. However, this is not Finpension getting that money, it is Credit Suisse.

Finally, you can even save on fees! If you recommend Finpension 3a to somebody that actively uses it, you will receive a fee credit of 25 CHF. This means you will save 25 CHF for each user you invite, and there is no limit to how many users you can invite. And if you use my code (in the next section), you can even win one year of third pillar contribution.

Overall, the fees of the Finpension 3a account are excellent! All of their fees are at least as good as the cheapest third pillar in Switzerland, and often better. Finpension 3a account is the cheapest third pillar account for people wanting to invest heavily in stocks!

Extra fees

There are a few extra fees if you are making an early withdrawal from the third pillar.

If you are making an early withdrawal for a house, you will have to pay 250 CHF. And if you pledge your third pillar for a real estate property, Finpension charges 200 CHF.

If you transfer your Finpension 3a assets less than one year after creating your account, you will have to pay 150 CHF.

Finally, if you withdraw your assets while you are abroad, you will have to pay 750 CHF if that happens during your first year at Finpension and 250 CHF after that.

Since these fees are exceptional and not related to investments, they are less significant. But you should still take them into account if you think you will fall into one of these categories.

Open a Finpension 3a account

If you use my code FEYKV5, during the process, you will have a chance to win 6’883 CHF (if you transfer or deposit CHF 1’000 within the first 12 months).

Opening a Finpension 3a account is very easy and can be done in a few minutes. Open your phone, download the finpension app on your favorite app store, and follow the process as you go.

They will start by asking for your phone number and a password for your account. Then, they will compute your investment horizon based on your age.

My investment horizon with Finpension 3a
My investment horizon with Finpension 3a

After that, you will have to answer the common questions about your risk tolerance. And they will use that to choose an investment strategy for you. But if you do not like the suggested strategy, you can choose your own. And do not worry, you can change it later too.

My risk tolerance by Finpension 3a
My risk tolerance by Finpension 3a

After you have chosen the strategy, you will have to fill in your personal information, and that is it! Your account is ready to welcome a deposit already. It is very smooth.

A great thing is also that you can create up to five portfolios per person. It means that you can make staggered withdrawals to optimize your taxes. For more information on this optimization, read my article on the third pillar.

Security

If you want this money to last for a long time, it is essential to consider the security of each institution.

Let’s start with the technical security of the Finpension 3a application. All the communications between the application and the servers are encrypted. And you will connect with a phone number and a password.

You can choose to activate a second factor of authentication for your account. This will bind your account to your phone number with SMS authentication. This adds a good layer of security to your account.

Also, I would actually prefer having a proper identification check when creating an account.

Your cash will be held in the custodian bank of the finpension 3a foundation. The current custodian bank is Credit Suisse. This cash is protected by Swiss law, up to 100’000 CHF. Since strategies at Finpension 3a have very little cash, this should not be an issue.

As for your securities, they are invested in Credit Suisse’s institutional funds, and credit Suisse is managing more than 100 billion CHF in pension assets. It is a good point to have a large manager, not a small unknown bank.

All the funds are set on the balance sheet of the foundation. And this foundation only has client assets on its balance sheet. So, even if finpension (the asset managers) goes bankrupt, the funds are safe in the foundation. And the foundation will have to find a new manager.

Overall, I think that the security of the Finpension 3a is good. The fact that the foundation is separated from the asset management company is a great thing for safety.

Alternatives

In Switzerland, there are many third pillar providers. However, the immense majority of them are not nearly as good as Finpension 3a.

The one that is really worth mentioning is VIAC. So, we compare both in detail.

Finpension 3a vs VIAC

In the past, I have recommended VIAC as the best third pillar in Switzerland. So, let’s see how Finpension 3a compares to VIAC. Is it the new best third pillar account of Switzerland?

Let’s start with the fees. Finpension 3a is very slightly cheaper, with 0.44% (0.42% with custom strategy) than VIAC at 0.45%. This is not a very significant difference.

On top of that, Finpension has a very low spread (0.05%) for currency conversion, while VIAC has a large one (0.75%). Now, it is true that VIAC is using netting to reduce that fee. In practice, it cost less than 0.25% with netting. Also, a lot of funds are in CHF, which makes it cheaper. And it is a one-time cost. But it is still cheaper at Finpension 3a.

With Finpension 3a, you can invest up to 99% in stocks while you are limited to 97% with VIAC. Again, it is not a huge difference, but it will add up in the long-term.

You also have more freedom when creating a custom strategy with finpension 3a than with VIAC. For instance, you can create a portfolio with a 99% foreign currency exposure with Finpension 3a while VIAC limits you to 60%! This feature is great for investors with particular needs!

If you do not want to have 99% invested in stocks, VIAC may be better than Finpension 3a. Indeed, they let you invest in cash. With finpension 3a, you will have to invest in negative-yielding bonds which may not be great. So, for low allocation to stocks, VIAC may be better.

Both VIAC and Finpension have a mobile application and a web application. So, they are both very practical.

Both services are quite transparent and look very honest. They both have a good level of security and safety for your assets. Finally, they both have a great reputation as well.

Given that higher allocation to stocks and the lower fees, Finpension 3a is a better third pillar than VIAC. This makes Finpension 3a the new best third pillar in Switzerland! However, VIAC is only very slightly worse and is still a great option.

For people that do not want to be fully invested in stocks, VIAC is probably still better. It does not make much sense currently to invest in negatively-yielding bonds. But if you have a long investing horizon in front of you, you should consider investing fully in stocks.

If you want more details, I have an entire article about VIAC vs Finpension 3a.

Finpension 3a Pros

Let’s quickly summarize the advantages of Finpension 3a:

  • Extremely low fees!
  • You can invest up to 99% in stocks.
  • No currency hedging is forced on the investors.
  • Straightforward registration process.
  • You can create a custom investing strategy with a  lot of freedom.
    • No foreign equity limit
    • No foreign currency limit
  • Excellent transparency on all the funds and fees on their website.
  • You can create up to five portfolios.
  • Mobile and web applications

Finpension 3a Cons

Let’s quickly summarize the disadvantages of Finpension 3a:

  • Finpension is a really young product
  • The identity is not verified during account creation
  • Invest in negative-yielding bonds.
  • No second-factor authentication on the mobile application.

These cons are quite minor.

Conclusion

Best Third Pillar!
Finpension 3a

Finpension 3a is the best third pillar in Switzerland.

Use the FEYKV5 code to get a chance to win 6883 CHF in your third pillar*!

*(if you deposit 1000 CHF in the first 12 months)

Pros:
  • Invest 99% in stocks

I was expecting a good third pillar account by finpension, and I am not disappointed. The finpension 3a offer is a great third pillar account. It is the new best third pillar in Switzerland (for people investing fully in stocks).

The fees are very low, with a minimum of 0.44% with the proposed strategies. And you can even go to 0.42% with a custom strategy. The overall pricing system is very advantageous, as well.

On top of that, you can invest up to 99% in stocks. And with a custom strategy, you can have an extremely well-diversified portfolio with only one or two funds.

All this makes Finpension 3a better than VIAC! I am currently moving my portfolios from VIAC to Finpension 3a. By the end of 2021, I will have migrated all my accounts. And I will start a new one in 2022 at Finpension 3a.

Now, there is one area where Finpension 3a is worse than VIAC. If you do not invest fully in stocks, VIAC may be cheaper. Indeed, with Finpension you will have to invest in negative-yielding bonds. At VIAC, you will be able to invest in cash (with a 0.1% return), which is currently better than bonds. And at VIAC, you will only pay the fees on the invested part.

But for aggressive investors like me, Finpension 3a is currently better than VIAC.

If you open a Finpension 3a account, please use my code FEYKV5, this will give you a chance to win 6883 CHF!

If you liked this review and this company, you will like my review of finpension vested benefits offer – valuepension.

What do you think of this new Finpension 3a account?

Baptiste Wicht is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

141 thoughts on “Finpension 3a Review: An excellent third pillar”

  1. Hi Baptiste
    I have left Switzerland to live abroad (outside EU) a couple of years ago but still have a Säule 2 and Säule 3a account, currently at Postfinance. The interest on both is basically 0 and the Säule 2 even costs 9 CHF per quarter so I have been thinking of moving them to viac/finpension.
    As I am living outside the EU i would also have the option to just withdraw the money (pay around 5% of taxes on it) and invest it myself on my IB account.

    What would you do in this case? Invest via viac/finpension or withdraw and invest myself? I assume the fees will always be lower by investing myself… Do you see any disadvantages?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Johannes,

      I would say it depends on whether you plan to ever come back to Switzerland. If you plan to come back, it makes sense to move them to Finpension or VIAC.
      If you plan to stay outside and you can trust yourself (think long about that point) to maintain that money for your retirement, then it makes sense from an optimization point of view to invest it yourself.

  2. Dear Baptise

    Thank you for your work.

    Why don’t you mention anything about the prospective returns / yields of the third pillar providers and their strategies?

    For example, I don’t care if a third pillar provider offers a strategy with a TER of 3.0% instead of 0.5%, provided that the strategy with the higher TER has a higher return / yield than the strategy with the lower TER.

    This is a bit of an oversight, don’t you think? What’s the point of focusing on minimizing pillar 3a strategy costs if the returns / yield aren’t as strong?

    Thank you in advance.

    Kind regards,
    asdf

    1. Hi,

      It’s not an oversight. No active management can beat the market in the long term, this has been shown times and times again.
      Prospective returns are irrelevant.

      On the other hand, I talk about the strategies. I only recommend third pillars that invest passively. So, the prospective returns are the returns of the market. And so, the only important thing that remains to optimize is the fees.

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