Opinion / Opinion Line

New departments would serve pension funds better

By Wu Zheyu ( Updated: 2016-06-03 16:14

New departments would serve pension funds better

Senior citizens chat at a retirement home in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

The recruitment process of two newly formed departments of National Council for Social Security Fund (NCSSF) is about to finish at the end of June according to its latest public notice of recruitment. It’s expected the two departments would function as administrating investment of pension funds into domestic stock market in August.

This has raised another round of public debate as people are worried whether it could achieve a steady investment return given the stock market’s fluctuating situation, and who should be qualified to run an entity that is so closely watched by everyone.

With the detailed investment plan still unclear, the discussion and worries cannot be brushed away. As Sinolink Securities calculates and predicts in a research report, there’s high possibility that in the first round 300 billion in pension funds would be injected into the stock market, which is actually impressive as the strategy is not to place too much in the early stage, and the capital inflow would be arranged in several rounds.

China's total pension funds stood at 3.98 trillion yuan at the end of 2015, according to public information from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. There is at least one consensus that all parties agree upon: Such a huge amount should be managed carefully and stability and security should come first, especially considering the sensibility of the pension funds which can’t bear any lost.

Zhang Jie, the associate chief editor of Globalbizfin, a financial magazine under the Development Research Center of the State Council, said in an opinion piece that 300 billion means 1% or more of the total value of the A stock market thus two factors should be ensured during the progress, the editor warned.

First, the funds should never be used as bailout capital for downturn market. Second, the pace should be steadier. If the administrative staff members are hired in June and are tasked with managing the capital flow in August, then it would be hard for people to have confidence in their ability to achieve a steady investment return.

But if there is a steady investment return, then people would have a more positive attitude as government plans to allow more provincial-level pension funds to entrust their money to the NCSSF. Currently only Guangdong and Shandong provinces have received the regulatory approval to entrust their pension funds to the NCSSF for investment in the domestic capital markets.

The public usually cannot tell the difference between the pension funds managed by NCSSF or local governments, and actually their earning performances have huge differences. NCSSF’s annual invest return rate reached 15.19% in 2015, which is quite remarkable, while returns on local governments’ pension accounts have long been lower than the growth of inflation, which means their assets have shrunk in value. As for this aspect, NCSSF somehow proves its experienced and relatively outstanding performance in capital market.

There exists a serious need for the whole social security system to optimize its portfolio, as the rapidly aging society increases pressure, and the outdated pension system cannot deal with the increasing need.

Many investors welcome the government initiative. “It would be a year of great-leap-forward development for pension market in 2016,” said Xu Peidong, Investment Strategist with Everbright Securities Research Institute.

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