Pension funds not operating to benefit contributors, says ex banker ({{commentsTotal}})

Indrek Neivelt.
Indrek Neivelt. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Former Hanspank (now Swedbank) CEO Indrek Neivelt writes in an opinion piece that Estonia's pension funds, with the exception of mutual fund Tuleva, haven't been managed in the interest of their contributors.

Estonia's current pension funds system is far from being self-regulating and needs the constant attention of the state and parliament, Neivelt wrote, pointing out that the fees of the pension funds have been stellar compared to eg their Finnish counterparts.

At the same time, most of their assets are tied up in low-yield instruments such as foreign government bonds. Instead, they could look over to Finland for inspiration and invest more in the local economy as well, eg in the form of stocks and real estate.

Neivelt also pointed out that Finland's funds don't seem to need intermediaries if they go for real estate, like Estonian funds commonly do it. While in Finland funds like Ilmarinen and Varma directly own and maintain real estate, in Estonia the pension funds go through third parties, each of whom of course are after their own profits as well and come with fees of their own.

All in all, in a comparison of performance, it is obvious that Estonia has fallen behind massively, and that the current system is both producing too little and keeping the state in the role of the party responsible for people's pensions.

Far behind the Finnish funds' performance, Estonia's would likely have at least over €5 billion instead of the current roughly €4 billion had its managers acted in the interest of the contributors rather than their own.

Describing the Estonian system as "clumsy and very expensive," Neivelt pointed out that its complexity comes with an advantage for the banks and the fund managers, which stood up for the interests of their shareholders rather than those of the contributors.

Estonia's pension funds system could be seen as healthy once there are more mutual funds. Those, owned by the contributors themselves such as eg in the case of Tuleva, keep their fees low, productivity comparably high, and the contributors themselves can decide over the asset portfolio.

Only once the contributors are in a position to define the course of the funds could there be talk of a self-regulating system, Neivelt wrote.

Editor: Dario Cavegn



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