Pension schemes expected to benefit fund managers

Chris Chapel

SECRETARY for Financial Services Michael Cartland says fund managers will reap a windfall in new business from the new Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance.

The Ordinance seeks to separate the assets of funds from those of the companies running them and to protect beneficiaries in the event of a Robert Maxwell-style crisis.

Its other requirements are independent audit, the disclosure of information to members and for employers to top up their funds to meet strict solvency and funding guidelines.

Much of this new business would come from the latter requirement, Mr Cartland told the Hongkong Investment Funds Association, formerly known as the Hongkong Unit Trust Association.

The amount in existing retirement funds has been estimated at $80 billion and Mr Cartland said the amount of underfunding could be between $5 billion and $10 billion.

''The topping-up requirement, not to mention the establishment of new schemes, should therefore result in more assets being absorbed into the pool of pension funds, providing new opportunities for investment managers and, at the same time, increasing thedemand for their professional advice.'' He noted that pool funds were already popular vehicles for the investment of retirement funds.

Mr Cartland described the regime to be introduced under the Ordinance as ''a system of minimum government interference'' which would offer ''new challenges and fresh opportunities for fund managers in the years ahead''.

The scheme's success would depend ''largely upon the ability of fund managers to invest prudently whilst meeting the reasonable expectation of pension fund contributors''.

''In line with our flexible approach towards investment management, the Ordinance will enable managers to operate with the minimum of government supervision. This will obviate the development of a large and expensive bureaucracy, the cost of which would otherwise inevitably be passed on to employers and employees.'' The Registrar of Occupational Retirement Schemes would rely on professionals to certify that registered schemes were operating in accordance with the Ordinance and would not intervene unless circumstances required.

The Bill has had a difficult birth. It was due to become law in 1990 but was rejected by a Legislative Council committee because of its complexity.

An attempt to push it through in 1991 was thwarted by a busy legislative timetable and by the middle of this year it will be some five years behind schedule.

Mr Cartland said that because there were several months to go before the Bill came into operation, queries and clarifications were welcomed.