Employers should weigh their options carefully when choosing an MPF provider to take care of their staff's needs for retirement. 'There are a few major principles involved,' said Desmond Chan Kwok- kit, managing director of AIA Pension and Trustee Co, an affiliate of the global insurance giant American International Assurance. Mr Chan said the first point to consider was the longevity of the provider and if it was still going to be around in 40 years or more, when even today's younger employees were retiring. Secondly, as MPF schemes were new products without a track record, so employers should look at brand-name reputation. 'Again, the question is would they be here today but not in five years should they decide to move their offices to Singapore or somewhere else,' he said. The third area to look at among providers was experience in the pensions industry. Providers with a track record were more likely to provide efficient administration of an MPF scheme, freeing employers to get on with running their businesses, he said. Mr Chan believed AIA would prove a tough competitor in the MPF market when providers began selling their products on February 1, ahead of the scheme's launch on December 1 next year. AIA has Standard & Poor's top rating of AAA, 60 years experience in Hong Kong and the largest individual share of the life insurance market at about 30 per cent. An alliance has been formed with Jardine Fleming Asset Management. AIA, with a team of 7,800 agents who are being put through its 'MPF University', provides the muscle power to reach out to the thousands of small and medium-sized companies in the SAR. 'Our large agency force can work hand-in-hand with our clients in filling in the documentation, help them understand the MPF and fulfil their legal responsibilities,' Mr Chan said. Jardine Fleming brought good contacts with larger employers and a strong track record as an asset management company. 'By combining the forces we believe we have got the pros but not the cons of the two entities together,' Mr Chan said. Further alliances, Citic Ka Wah Bank and Belgian Bank, will widen AIA's client base. It is expected to be a high-volume, low margin business allowing the banks to avoid the need to set up their own schemes yet provide a complete service to clients. AIA is expecting that its 'Athena' pension administration system brought in from the United States will be another selling point. Employers will be able to go on-line, key in a password and check the movement of funds, make switches and track their contributions. Employers will be given access to both employee and company level-information of their MPF scheme.