Consultancy Towers Watson launched a new magazine and website yesterday to educate Hong Kong citizens about how to get the most out of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme.

A bilingual publication titled MPFexpress.com will be freely available outside MTR stations each quarter, with copies placed in designated centres of the 21 MPF service providers, which may opt to send further copies to some of the scheme’s 2.5 million members.

The print version will also be distributed through independent financial advisers as well as through Towers Watson’s own clients, while a soft edition will be made available for use on phones and tablet computers. An online version of the magazine is downloadable, too.

Hot off the press yesterday, the first edition featured: a review on MPF performance and articles on deferral of the Employee Choice Arrangement (ECA) scheme; the first 10 years of MPF; and a discussion on what can be done to improve MPF. It also has a section introducing the different providers, a lifestyle section and includes the latest market updates and developments.

The new website www.mpfexpress.com is similarly free to end-users, combining information on providers and MPF schemes, as well as real-time market news. It, too, features drop-down tabs providing MPF comparisons on fund choices, performance and fees. The website is available in English currently, with a Chinese version to follow in a month or two.

Naomi Denning, Asia-Pacific managing director of investment services for Towers Watson, confirms that greater interactivity will be added to the website over time, with individuals invited to sign up to receive real-time updates and e-alerts.

“It will get more comprehensive and interactive with the building of planning tools that individuals can use to tailor their own MPF portfolios,” explains Denning.

She notes that the initiative, which was over a year in the making, was inspired by the announcement of the ECA scheme, which was planned for launch next month but which has been since been deferred. A Towers Watson’s survey estimates that 20-30% of people could switch providers when the ECA finally comes in, which it is now hoped will happen in 2012.

“We were very aware of how things were developing in the marketplace because of ECA being announced, and in many ways that was the trigger for us,” states Denning. “We recognised this changed the game for individuals.

“We felt there was not a consistent and comprehensive source of information about the providers available. Individuals had to search it all out themselves. But then they would not know they were getting information comparing like for like. This is a big step today, that in one place they will be able to get information on all the providers.”

Towers Watson discussed this project with both the MPF Authority and the Securities & Futures Commission to make sure it complied with requirements.

“The MPFA liked the concept because their mission is to raise awareness to make sure that information is presented to individuals in an appropriate fashion,” says Denning. “We will be looking for contributions from all relevant parties to generate the information we share.”

But Towers Watson did not discuss this project with the community at large in the initial stages of development. “We wanted to make sure we managed this process effectively and recognised that if we talked about it too much we might not be the first ones to get it out cleanly,” she adds.

Towers Watson is now set to launch an extended marketing campaign to raise awareness of its MPF initiative, with adverts going into financial newspapers and websites. Denning says ideas in discussion include a banner on a tram stop in Central, or even down the side of an ice-cream van.

Towers Watson notes that 2010 saw HK$816 million ($105 million) in voluntary contributions made to MPF and predicts that the MPF market could near triple over the next decade to HK$1 trillion, with an average balance per member of HK$500,000 by 2020.