The Mandatory Provident Fund, the compulsory pension scheme that covers almost 3 million people in Hong Kong, hit the HK$1 trillion (US$129 billion) mark for the first time at the end of July, according to the head of the pension regulator.
The MPF, which turns 20 in December, has recorded a 15 per cent surge in asset values in the four months since April, bypassing HK$1 trillion for the first time since its foundation in the year 2000.
It puts MPF on course to join the top 20 pension funds worldwide. At US$129 billion, the MPF is now roughly the size of Denmark’s equivalent pension fund as of the end of last year, and is the eighth largest in Asia, behind two pension schemes in Japan and one in each of South Korea, mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and India, according to data from pension consultant Willis Towers Watson.
“Some people were worried about their MPF investment because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the financial markets,” said David Wong Yau-kar, chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, in his Chinese language blog on Sunday.
The strong recovery after a sharp fall in the first quarter reflects “the resilience and stability of the MPF system”, Wong said. He urged the roughly 3 million people covered by the scheme to take a long-term view and not to be overly concerned about the short-term volatility of the market.
At the current level, each member on average has about HK$333,333 in their MPF account, but some have a much larger share. At the end of last year the number of MPF accounts with more than HK$1 million stood at 62,900, up 40 per cent from a year earlier, Wong said.
“MPF scheme members should manage their MPF accounts properly because it provides savings for basic retirement protection after years of accumulation in the MPF system,” he said.
The authority had introduced various measures to enhance the transparency of the scheme to help members to choose their investment funds, he added.
The MPF requires employers and employees each to contribute 5 per cent of the salary, or up to HK$$3,000 per month, to the MPF, which is run by providers such as banks, insurance companies and fund houses. The members can choose how to invest their contribution in different investment funds.
A one-stop MPF platform introduced last year to enable members to compare fees and the performance of their MPF investment funds added competition and led to more than 40 of the 414 funds lowering their fees.
The authority has also required MPF providers to offer information to members about the risk levels of the funds. “The risk class function will allow scheme members to select the funds that meet with their personal needs,” Wong said.
The scheme has often been criticised for being insufficient to fulfil people’s retirement needs in such a famously expensive city.
Simon Wong, who will turn 65 this month and cash in his MPF for around HK$300,000, said the sum is far from enough to see him through retirement.
“The living standard in Hong Kong is so high that I believe my MPF will soon be used up. The government needs to provide more support for the retirees besides the MPF,” Wong said.
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.