Toward Better Regulation of Private Pension Funds

37 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 1997

See all articles by Hemant C. Shah

Hemant C. Shah

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Date Written: June 1997


Although well-meant, Chilean-style pension reforms distort incentives for competition, raise costs, and reduce desirable investment choices and returns. This proposed departure from a Chilean-style private pension fund system would permit banks and mutual funds to manage retirement savings. It would also require that returns be reported on a net basis, and would charge commissions as a fraction of assets managed.

Shah analyzes the typical model for regulating investments in private pension funds. Pension reforms like those pioneered by Chile are being initiated or considered in Argentina, Bolivia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hungary, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and elsewhere. Such reforms greatly improve fiscal discipline, make social security benefits and burdens equitable, and deepen financial markets. But they are also typically accompanied by:

Tight restrictions on the investments in pension fund portfolios.

Restrictions on the management of mandated retirement savings (to newly created legal entities called pension administrators, to the exclusion of such financial intermediaries as banks and mutual funds).

Minimum-return guarantees from the state and/or pension funds.

Commissions based on salary rather than on the volume of assets managed.

Illustrating his conclusions with case studies from Chile and Peru, Shah shows that these restrictions, though well-meant, are poorly justified by financial theory, distort incentives for competition based on product choice and efficiency, increase administrative costs, and seriously reduce the affiliates' appropriate risk-return choices and returns.

And the resulting potential losses in retirement income are great.

Shah recommends a significant departure from the Chilean-style model of a private pension fund system. He briefly describes implementation and transition issues for the alternative system that he proposes, which would:

Permit diverse intermediaries- banks and mutual funds that meet appropriate prudential standards- manage retirement savings.

Allow a greater choice between investment products.

Require that returns be reported on a net basis.

Charge commissions as a fraction of assets managed.

This paper-a product of the Advisory Group, Technical Department, Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office-is part of a larger effort in the Region and the Economic Development Institute to disseminate policy research on social security reforms. An earlier version was presented at an EDI Conference, "Pension Systems: From Crisis to Reform," in November 1996.

JEL Classification: H55, J26

Suggested Citation

Shah, Hemant C., Toward Better Regulation of Private Pension Funds (June 1997). Available at SSRN: or

Hemant C. Shah (Contact Author)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20431
United States
202-623-9831 (Phone)

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