AsianInvestor's Top 20 pension executives in Asia list showcases an array of senior executives, from CEOs and CIOs to heads of responsible investing and equity chiefs -- change-makers who are leading the industry with their forward thinking and innovative practices.
As Asia faces a growing silver tide, it's imperative that the pensions industry takes steps to modernise and improve its operations to cater to increasing retirement demands. That will require skilled and talented professionals.
You can find more about the rationale for our Top 20 list here.
Today, we showcase two senior investment executives from Taiwan and Thailand.
Morgan Chen Ming-hsien
Director General, Bureau of Public Service Pension Fund
As the new leader of a pension fund that recently underwent a major structural overhaul, Morgan Chen Ming-hsien has a lot to manage on his plate.
While he was only recently named as head of the revamped organisation, AsianInvestor believes he counts among the “ones to watch” in the pensions landscape in Asia.
The Public Service Pension Fund, which has been around since 1995 managing the retirement funds of civil servants, education workers, and military personnel, underwent several organisational and structural changes.
Among the changes introduced was that PSPF turned into a defined contribution (DC) plan for new civil servants and public education employees starting July 1, while existing members remain under the previous defined benefit scheme.
The revamped Bureau of Public Service Pension Fund launched on April 30.
The fund's new DC scheme will become the second public DC scheme, following the establishment of the Labor Pension Fund (LPF) in 2005, which is under the management of the Bureau of Labor Funds (BLF).
At the same time, Chen, who was vice chairman of the previous Public Service Pension Fund Management Board, was named as director general of the revamped $24 billion bureau.
All these no doubt mark a new chapter for PSPF – and Morgan Chen.
Chen joined PSPF in July 2022. Before that, he spent most of his career in Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC). He was previously director for FSC’s New York office.
Under Chen, the pension fund is expected to continue rolling out more reforms that enhance member access, choices and investment returns. One of them is the unveiling of a digital investment platform on January 1, 2025, allowing new PSPF members to shape their own portfolios.
In addition, by the end of 2023, the PSPF bureau is expected to select investment advisory companies through open tendering, and design investment portfolios with different risk profiles leveraging the help of professional institutions.
The restructuring is expected to help improve the effectiveness of investment decisions, enabling sustained improvements in the fund and protect the rights and interests of members.
Industry observers that AsianInvestor spoke to said Chen seemed the right person for the job to ensure this happens. They also welcomed the big changes at the pension fund.
“A DC plan can help mitigate the financial burden of the government...as the return is not entirely guaranteed,” noted Donna Chen, president of Keystone Intelligence, a Taiwan-based financial advisory firm.
It remains to be seen how PSPF’s new DC scheme will affect overall performance of the pension fund.
“For now, it’s a wait-and-see how the structural and systematic reform will kick in in daily operations,” another senior investment consultant told AsianInvestor.
These reforms seem to be in the right direction and for now, AsianInvestor hopes Chen, with his knowledge of financial supervision, securities markets and public pension fund management, could move that process along nicely.
Deputy Secretary General for Investment Strategy & Fund Manager Management Group, Government Pension Fund
Man Juttijudata, who oversees the investments of $13 billion Government Pension Fund, has a highly scientific bent of mind.
Yet his vast experience in social security matters, asset management and investment banking also grant him an almost prescient ability to understand financial markets.
The seasoned investment professional, who has a PhD in engineering, joined the pension fund in 2006 on the risk management side.
Since then, he has worked his way up to become deputy secretary general responsible for investment strategy, outsourcing fund management and sustainable investing.
GPF is one of the more advanced pension fund investors in Southeast Asia, outside of Singapore, investing in overseas markets and in fairly complex asset classes such as private equity, infrastructure and real estate.
Up to 60% of the fund's assets can be invested overseas.
Juttijudata is remarkably transparent about how the pension fund invests and is an eloquent and regular speaker at AsianInvestor’s Institutional Investor forums in Thailand.
Under Juttijudata’s watch, GPF has built a robust portfolio that is diversified in 18 asset classes with the aim to achieve high real returns in the long term.
The fund also actively uses tactical asset allocation across major asset classes to capitalise on market trends.
That approach was visible in 2022, when the Thai pension fund managed to post almost non-negative returns amid high turbulence in global financial stocks and bonds.
Part of it can be credited to its alternatives investments, which went up to 20% from below 10% a few years ago.
"Secondly, given the increase in foreign [asset] allocation to 60%, while still limiting growth assets to below 40%, we could enhance the return from both duration and credit by investing in global investment-grade corporate bonds, while reducing concentration on local Thai government bonds,” Juttijudata said.
More significantly, Jutijudatta said the pension fund has transitioned from simple multi-asset strategy to "multi-strategies" after a pioneering project to invest in absolute funds a few years ago.
This mandate and an increase in allocation to such strategies helped stabilise returns well during volatile markets last year when most asset classes posted a negative return, he said.
GPF also recognises the importance of environmental, social and governance issues, and believes that such investments will generate a decent financial return for its members in the long run, with positive impacts on society and the environment.
The fund integrates ESG factors into its external fund managers’ selection process via questionnaires and the fund’s own due diligence process.
“After external fund managers are selected, GPF always meets and engages with executives of those fund managers regarding operational issues to encourage the promote the implementation of ESG practices as agreed,” said Juttijudata.
The ESG performance of external fund managers is one of the criteria the fund uses to assess overall performance as well.
Similarly, the fund also integrates ESG factors into its domestic investment management.
Given the dynamic investment approach of this pension fund, especially in a region where pension funds are still slow to develop and explore new asset classes, GPF is leading the way in showing other asset owners how it’s done.
And with Juttijudata at the investment helm, this executive certainly makes his mark on AsianInvestor’s Top 20 list.
(All AUM figures in US dollars)
This concludes our Top 20 list.