HONG KONG'S claim to the title of fund management capital of the Asia-Pacific hangs in the balance with today's crucial vote on funding for the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF), industry leaders say. Desperate last-minute lobbying was under way yesterday in a bid to swing the Legislative Council vote in favour of the $21 million needed to fund the MPF Office. But there were fears rebels will scupper the scheme by rejecting the funding needed to get the scheme rolling. Leaders of the $150 billion fund management industry yesterday said the territory's credibility as the paramount centre could be under threat. Peter Lord, managing director of LGT Asset Management, said: 'I am quite concerned with what a 'no' vote would do for the attractiveness and competitiveness of Hong Kong as a fund management centre.' On Tuesday, Paul Cheng Ming-fun, the business representative in Legco, warned that increasing red tape was strangling business and the territory's reputation as an international financial centre. Mr Lord yesterday added: 'Singapore and Malaysia are offering clear, simpler tax structures and are directly putting money out to attract and retain international fund management. 'The MPF represents the overwhelmingly largest prospect with which the Government could attract and hold fund managers. If it is going to be dashed, then the relative attraction of Hong Kong also suffers.' The MPF has been dogged by controversy since the Government made a last-minute turnaround to introduce a defined contribution rather than its original defined benefit scheme. Under the plan, most of the territory's employees will have to make monthly contributions equivalent to five per cent of their income, up to $1,000. Fund management groups are expected to be given the mandate to manage an estimated $30 billion a year of new funds flowing into pooled and segregated pension schemes. Mark Baxter, director and Hong Kong manager of actuaries William M. Mercer, said: 'There are a lot of people who have made capital commitment in anticipation of the scheme and there could be a lot of fingers burnt.' Stuart Leckie, regional chairman of Fidelity Investments, said that while the additional funds would be good for the industry, it would not be the windfall anticipated by many managers. Mr Leckie, former chairman of Wyatt Co, said many employers would cut back on the discretionary funding of existing pension schemes. The Wyatt Group, a fierce critic of the scheme's funding structure, is believed to have won a key job to usher in the controversial pension package. But the Government is believed to have postponed any announcement that the actuaries will head up the team of consultants until after the funding has been approved.