Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), today announced the launch of the Mercer Mandatory Provident Fund Satisfaction Index (MPF SI), and released the findings from its April 2017 survey. The monthly index is the first of its kind in Hong Kong to measure the satisfaction level of Hong Kongers towards the MPF system. The first survey in April 2017 placed the index at 50.3 on a scale of a possible 100 and results indicate that MPF members approaching their retirement are more satisfied with the MPF system than their less mature counterparts.
The monthly survey was conducted by Nielsen, a world leader in market research. amongst Hong Kong workers aged 20 to 65 on Mercer’s behalf to examine knowledge, understanding and satisfaction with the MPF system and current MPF-related developments.
“Our population is ageing at an unprecedented rate, meaning that post-retirement financial wellness is of paramount importance today. Since its launch in 2000, the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) has set out to provide a vehicle for the working population to save for retirement and has become an important part of the total savings pool for retirement needs in Hong Kong. With recent announcements concerning proposed changes to the scheme, such as the introduction of the Default Investment Strategy, we believe that the survey will provide useful insights on the MPF system and hopefully to improve understanding of satisfaction with the scheme,” said Billy Wong, Wealth Business Leader of Hong Kong, China and Korea at Mercer.
Identifying the age and knowledge-specific differences in subscribers
Near-retirement employees more satisfied than their younger counterparts
According to the results of the Mercer MPF SI survey, the April 2017 index is 50.3, with only 11% of respondents saying they were “satisfied” with the MPF system, 31% finding the system only “fair” and close to 60% indicating that they are “dissatisfied”.
Within this group, younger employees seem to be less satisfied than their more mature counterparts, where the average satisfaction index for respondents aged 55 or above was 66.4, compared with 47.3 for those aged 35 – 54 and 45.59 for those aged 20 – 34.
“To younger workers, retirement planning may seem like a distant matter which does not require immediate attention, while some may wish they had the funds to invest in other ventures. The Mercer MPF SI offered us very interesting insights as to the different needs and sentiments towards MPF or retirement among employees in different life stages. These differences will be important for MPF providers and government bodies to keep in mind when devising retirement planning or MPF communications and education, to ensure that the content caters the specific needs of the audience in different age groups,” said Wong.
Knowledge positively correlated with satisfaction; more work to be done to increase portfolio review frequency
When asked how knowledgeable they are about the current MPF system, over 6 in 10 (61%) respondents considered themselves “knowledgeable” and “very knowledgeable”, with only 7% rating themselves as “not knowledgeable” and below.
The survey results also suggest that there is a positive correlation between how knowledgeable a respondent is and his/her satisfaction level with the MPF system. The average satisfaction index for those who deemed themselves “not knowledgeable” about the MPF system was 42.1, compared to 47.5 for those who considered themselves as having “average” knowledge and 52.8 for those who considered themselves “knowledgeable”.
More work may need to be done on educating employees on the importance of regular MPF portfolio reviews to ensure alignment with their long-term financial goals. According to the survey results, 60.4% of respondents review their MPF portfolio more than once a year, meaning that close to 40% review it less than once a year, which is the least often a subscriber should look at his/her portfolio to decide if rebalancing is necessary, according to Mercer.
Default Investment Strategy as a potential alternative
The Default Investment Strategy (DIS) launched in April by the government was partly aimed at addressing employees’ difficulties in making fund choices. The DIS offers an automatic rebalancing of risk and income versus growth as investors approach their retirement date. The results from the Mercer MPF SI survey suggest that Hong Kong employees may not be aware of the DIS and its potential to serve as an alternative to having to actively manage their portfolios. When asked how aware they are of the DIS, only 38.2% of respondents were “aware of what it is”, 40.1% were “aware of its existence but not of what it is” and another 21.7% were “not aware of its existence”.
“Depending on individual needs and goals, it is good practice for employees to review their MPF portfolios at least once a year. The DIS may be an alternative option for those who may not want to or do not know how to choose their own funds. It is important for all stakeholders, including the government, MPF providers and employers to work together to fill this knowledge gap,” said Wong.
Education to tackle expectation mismatch and improve satisfaction
The MPF Satisfaction Index survey results also showed a lack of confidence among employees that the MPF will meet their retirement needs. Even though the majority of respondents (43.0%) had average expectations when asked if the MPF would cover their post-retirement expenses, more respondents (36.8%) had “low” or “very low” expectations than those who had “high” expectations or above (21.2%).
With that said, Hong Kong employees are seemingly divided on their expectations for MPF returns. Close to 4 in 10 (39.6%) respondents were dissatisfied with the return of their MPF scheme. Among those who were “dissatisfied”, 62.2% are enjoying a positive return, and 15.9% achieved a return of over 3% on their MPF.
“We gather from the survey results that close to 40% of employees are dissatisfied with the return on their MPF scheme, perhaps not fully appreciating that most retirement plans invest conservatively to preserve capital.,” said Wong.
“The Mercer 2016 Hong Kong Defined Contribution Scheme Survey showed that on average, the combined contribution to MPF by both employee and employer is only 12% of an employee’s salary, far below the “ideal” level of between 30% and 45% of the employees’ salary. The survey clearly shows that more post-retirement financial wellness education, both on the amount of funds needed for retirement and how to evaluate investment options, is crucial for Hong Kong’s workforce,” added Wong.
Mercer helps governments and companies across Asia to meet the retirement needs of citizens and employees by offering research-backed insights and advice. Mercer helps employers with retirement plan benchmarking, plan design, set up and change and communication strategies. Mercer also manages and administers comprehensive Defined Contribution (DC) plans, designs DC plan investment options, manage Defined Benefit (DB) risk such as asset liability risk and construct portfolios for DB plans, and provides actuarial consulting services such as valuation.
In 2016, Mercer published the 8th edition of its Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (MMGPI), the world’s most comprehensive comparison of global pension systems. Most recently in 2017, Mercer announced the results of its 2016 Hong Kong Defined Contribution Scheme Survey which studied the sentiments of employers towards the MPF system in Hong Kong.
 Based on a paper written by Prof. Chan Wai Sum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong “The First Mandated Social Security Pension Scheme in Hong Kong,” Benefits: A Journal of Social Security Research, Policy and Practice, Issue 32 (September/October 2001): and internal estimations done by Mercer
Note to editors
The Mercer MPF SI was conducted by Nielsen to track the satisfaction level of MPF members. Carried out from April 20 – 26, the survey interviewed 207 respondents who are among the working population with MPF and whose monthly personal income is not less than HKD 7,100 (minimum threshold eligible for MPF membership). The survey was conducted through methods of online self-completion (Age 20 – 54) and offline street intercept (Age 55 or above).
The Mercer 2016 Hong Kong Defined Contribution Scheme Survey covers a broad spectrum of industries with over 50,000 individual MPF members. The survey was designed to look at areas including scheme design, investment management, provider services and fees, and scheme governance of defined contribution schemes available in Hong Kong, namely the Mandatory Provident Fund and Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance schemes.
Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer’s more than 20,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global professional services firm offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With 57,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $13 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a leader in management consulting. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.