Hong Kong’s MPF market can be more competitive if scheme members step up

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 9:35pm

Your correspondent Antony W. Wood (“New eMPF system may not lead to lower charges for employees”, September 13) may not be aware that there are two types of accounts under the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) System: contribution accounts and personal accounts.

Holders of both types of account have complete say over how to allocate their assets among the funds in the scheme. On top of that, personal account holders are free to move their MPF assets to any other fund of any other scheme without having to involve their current employer.

At present, the majority (about 60 per cent) of the 9.3 million MPF accounts are personal accounts. If the personal account holders want to move the assets to another scheme, all they need to do is to fill in a form and pass it to the relevant trustee.

For contribution accounts, set up for one’s current employment, the account holders can transfer the MPF benefits arising from their own (not employers’) mandatory contributions to a scheme of their choice once every year. Again, they only have to fill in a form for the transfer to be done.

The above transfers are all free of charge. In total, around 70 per cent, or HK$538 billion of all MPF assets as at July 31, are transferable by scheme members.

We, however, agree that despite a high percentage of assets being transferable, the MPF market is not competitive enough. We call on scheme members to take action. We hope employers and company chief executives, including Mr Wood, will join us in encouraging staff to pay more attention to their MPF investment to strengthen the demand side of the system.

There is also another point raised by Mr Wood which we would like to clarify. The current average 1.56 per cent fund expense ratio of MPF funds reflects not merely investment management fees. The operation of MPF funds involves some specific scheme administration work, such as collecting and allocating contributions, assisting in chasing employers for outstanding contributions and so forth.

These are some of the tasks and associated costs that come with a mandatory pension system that do not apply in the context of a simple investment product.

Comparing MPF fund fees with those of a retail investment product is not a like-for-like comparison.

Cheng Yan-chee, chief corporate affairs officer and executive director, Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority