The Philippines’s Social Security System, the Quezon City-based public pension fund, is looking at an uncertain future after its president and chief executive officer, Emmanuel Dooc, resigned in March after the pension fund’s new charter was enacted.
However, the move was expected and it is now up to the country's finance secretary whether to reappoint Dooc, according to one chief investment officer (CIO) at a Manila-based asset manager.
“Dooc might still be a candidate; he is not controversial, didn’t bash the government in any way and didn’t do anything wrong either on the asset side or the liability side,” the CIO told AsianInvestor on condition of anonymity.
That said, when speaking to AsianInvestor in October Dooc said he hoped for less political interference at the social security institution. That followed SSS's stated aim in September to issue new external investment mandates and hire more staff to improve its in-house investment capabilities.
Since Dooc might be up for reappointment, he made a strong and compelling case for himself as he finished his tenure, according to one managing director at another Manila-based asset manager who also declined to be named.
In February, Dooc stated that SSS had decided to make plans to diversify its portfolio by doubling its overseas investments to 15%. A strategy that the SSS CIO, Rizaldy Capulong, has elaborated on.
Newly passed legislation also allows SSS to gradually raise members’ monthly contribution rate to 15% of their wages in 2025. The contribution rate, which is shared by employers and employees, is currently 12%, up from 11% in 2018. According to the managing director, Dooc has successfully been pushing for this pension structure in relation to the amendment of the SSS charter.
“It became a landmark legislation that addresses low contribution rates by pushing for higher rates, which will help extend the life of SSS,” the managing director said. “Pensioners now will likely see an increase of payouts in the future due to this step, and part of the credit for that has to go to Dooc.”
The higher contribution rates also mean that SSS can look forward to higher streams of capital in the years to come, after years of struggling with funding issues. That, in turn, further increases the need for greater diversification, including more overseas investment allocations to ensure the delivery of adequate returns.
Dooc joined the pension fund in November 2016 after serving as Insurance Commissioner in 2011. AsianInvestor reached out to Dooc regarding his resignation and future plans.
In an email he wrote back that “as a matter of policy I am refraining from making any interviews, comments, press contact etc. about SSS out of respect to my successors and colleagues”.
SSS is a state-run, social insurance programme that caters for workers in the private, professional, and informal sectors. According to the SSS website, the fund had P507.32 billion ($9.77 billion) in assets under management at the end of 2018, up from P504.87 billion a year ago.