Heman Wong has quit as head of Hong Kong's new Pension Schemes Association (PSA) amid differences in opinion about the city's retirement savings system, and he is eyeing other roles.

The pension veteran's last day as the PSA's first chief executive was October 2, but he resigned in July after just four months in the post. Wong had originally joined in March for a 12-month contract at the organisation, a trade body for sponsors of Hong Kong's Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme.

“I had high aspirations when joining [the association]. I am keen to help to improve the MPF system in Hong Kong," he told AsianInvestor. "But after several months in the job, I felt I could not achieve what I wanted to, so I decided to leave." 

Wong said his views differed from those of the PSA board about what is needed to improve the MPF system, but he stressed both sides were still on friendly terms.

He sees the MPF scheme as poorly managed, and argues that changes are necessary on several fronts: return after fees should be higher, education on retirement savings is not sufficient, plus there should be a higher contribution rate and no cap on the income levels.

NEXT STEP

Wong is now talking to a private institution about a role serving the pensions industry. He said it was not a corporate pension plan and that he wouldn't be responsible for investments, but declined to give more details.

He added that he would remain in the pensions industry, but was open to opportunities in Asia outside Hong Kong.

PSA has already appointed a new CEO and will provide more details when she returns from travelling, PSA chairman KP Luk told AsianInvestor. Luk is also the head of Hong Kong defined-contribution business at Bermuda-based fund manager Fidelity International.

Wong has long experience of Hong Kong's pensions sector, including directly with the MPF scheme. He oversaw the business and investments at the city's Hospital Authority Provident Fund Scheme (HAPFS) for nine years until his departure in December 2016. He had also served as treasurer at the MPF Authority for some eight years before that. 

Wong oversaw an increase in assets under management at HAPFS to HK$57.7 billion ($7.44 billion) from HK$35.4 billion during his time there. He was succeeded by Doris Ho, investment operations and strategic asset allocation head. 

PSA GOALS

Registered in Hong Kong on February 14, PSA was founded by six MPF scheme sponsors: Hong Kong-based insurer AIA, FIL Investment Management, HSBC, US firm Principal Trust, and Canadian insurers Manulife and Sun Life. 

Asset managers First State Investment, T. Rowe Price and Value Partners have also joined as corporate members, Luk said.

Wong had told AsianInvestor when he joined that PSA aims to enhance the trust and confidence in the MPF industry by partnering industry stakeholders to cultivate awareness of the retirement scheme. 

“The association will act as the representative body for MPF scheme sponsors in Hong Kong, liaising with relevant policymakers and regulatory bodies on matters relating to the development of the MPF system in Hong Kong," he said. 

The MPF scheme continues to evolve, with confirmation emerging on Wednesday that it would be scrapping the controversial offset mechanism, whereby companies can use scheme contributions to cover long-service or severance payments to employees.