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Mutual Funds and Institutional Investments: What Is the Most Efficient Way to Set Up Individual Accounts in a Social Security System?

In: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform

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  • Estelle James
  • Gary Ferrier
  • James H. Smalhout
  • Dimitri Vittas

Abstract

One of the biggest criticisms leveled at defined contribution individual account (IA) components of social security systems is that they are too expensive. This paper investigates the cost-effectiveness of three options for constructing funded social security pillars: 1) IA's invested in the retail market with relatively open choice, 2) IA's invested in the institutional market with constrained choice among investment companies, and 3) a centralized fund without individual accounts or differentiated investments across individuals. Our questions: What is the most cost-effective way to organize a mandatory IA system, how does the cost of an efficient IA system compare with that of a single centralized fund, and are the cost differentials large enough to outweigh the other important considerations? Our answers, based on empirical evidence about mutual and institutional funds in the U.S.: The retail market (option 1) allows individual investors to benefit from scale economies in asset management, but at the cost of high marketing expenses that are needed to attract and aggregate small sums of money into large pools. In contrast, a centralized fund (option 3) can be much cheaper because it achieves scale economies without high marketing costs, but gives workers no choice and hence is subject to political manipulation and misallocation of capital. Mandatory IA systems can be structured to get the best of both worlds: to obtain scale economies in asset management without incurring high marketing costs or sacrificing worker choice. To accomplish this requires centralized collections, a modest level of investor service and constrained choice. The system of constrained choice described in this paper (option 2) is much cheaper than the retail market and only slightly more expensive than a single centralized fund. We estimate that it will cost only .14-.18% of assets annually. These large administrative cost savings imply a Pareto improvement so long as choice is not constraine
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Suggested Citation

  • Estelle James & Gary Ferrier & James H. Smalhout & Dimitri Vittas, 2000. "Mutual Funds and Institutional Investments: What Is the Most Efficient Way to Set Up Individual Accounts in a Social Security System?," NBER Chapters,in: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 77-136 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7469
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. D. K. Malhotra & Robert W. McLeod, 1997. "An Empirical Analysis Of Mutual Fund Expenses," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 20(2), pages 175-190, June.
    2. Ippolito, Richard A, 1992. "Consumer Reaction to Measures of Poor Quality: Evidence from the Mutual Fund Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 45-70, April.
    3. Dermine, Jean & Roller, Lars-Hendrik, 1992. "Economies of scale and scope in French mutual funds," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 83-93, March.
    4. Chordia, Tarun, 1996. "The structure of mutual fund charges," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 3-39, May.
    5. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
    6. Shukla, Ravi K. & van Inwegen, Gregory B., 1995. "Do locals perform better than foreigners?: An analysis of UK and US mutual fund managers," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 241-254, August.
    7. Malhotra, D K & McLeod, Robert W, 1997. "An Empirical Analysis of Mutual Fund Expenses," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 20(2), pages 175-190, Summer.
    8. Miles Livingston & Edward S. O'Neal, 1996. "Mutual Fund Brokerage Commissions," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 19(2), pages 273-292, June.
    9. McLeod, Robert W & Malhotra, D K, 1994. "A Re-examination of the Effect of 12B-1 Plans on Mutual Fund Expense Ratios," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 17(2), pages 231-240, Summer.
    10. Livingston, Miles & O'Neal, Edward S, 1996. "Mutual Fund Brokerage Commissions," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 19(2), pages 273-292, Summer.
    11. Robert W. McLeod & D. K. Malhotra, 1994. "A Re-Examination Of The Effect Of 12b–1 Plans On Mutual Fund Expense Ratios," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 17(2), pages 231-240, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Luciano Greco, 2005. "The Optimal Design of Funded Pension Plans: Unbundling Financing and Investment," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0003, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    2. Whitehouse, Edward, 2000. "Administrative charges for funded pensions: An international comparison and assessment," MPRA Paper 14172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Ebrahim, M. Shahid & Mathur, Ike & ap Gwilym, Rhys, 2014. "Integrating corporate ownership and pension fund structures: A general equilibrium approach," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 553-569.
    4. James,Estelle & Smalhout, James & Vittas, Dimitri, 2001. "Administrative costs and the organization of individual retirement account systems : a comparative perspective," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2554, The World Bank.
    5. Estelle James & Alejandra Cox Edwards & Rebeca Wong, 2012. "The Gender Impact of Pension Reform," World Bank Other Operational Studies 13046, The World Bank.
    6. Whitehouse, Edward, 2000. "Paying for pensions: An international comparison of administrative charges in funded retirement-income systems," MPRA Paper 14171, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. James, Estelle & Edwards, Alejandra Cox & Wong, Rebecca, 2003. "The gender impact of pension reform : a cross-country analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3074, The World Bank.
    8. James E. Pesando, 2001. "The Canada Pension Plan: Looking Back at the Recent Reforms," The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater,in: Patrick Grady & Andrew Sharpe (ed.), The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, pages 137-150 Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
    9. Rene Weber & David S. Gerber, 2007. "Aging, Asset Allocation, and Costs; Evidence for the Pension Fund Industry in Switzerland," IMF Working Papers 07/29, International Monetary Fund.

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