Sat, 02 Jul 2022

China diversifies options for retirement planning

Xinhua
21 May 2022, 02:05 GMT+10

© Provided by Xinhua

BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Savings accounts, wealth management products and a private pension scheme are among China's latest endeavors to provide its graying population with more inclusive and stable financial plans for retirement.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) announced earlier this month that the country will pilot retirement savings products in some cities at four state-owned banks: the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, the Bank of China, and the China Construction Bank.

The products, in essence bank deposits, are long-term investments with stable yields, fit for risk-averse residents. The four terms of these products are set five years apart between five and 20 years.

Analysts say the move carefully takes into account the public's preference toward saving, and it will help supplement an array of financial products for residents preparing for old age.

"Launching the pilot with the four state-owned lenders will help make the products accessible to more residents, given their vast client base and various online and offline service outlets," said Dong Ximiao, chief researcher with Merchants Union Consumer Finance Company Limited.

While the pricing of these products are yet to be unveiled, industry insiders say the rates of treasury savings bonds and long-term fixed deposits can offer some frame of reference.

China has vowed to improve a multi-tiered old-age welfare system, calling for efforts to develop enterprise annuities, as well as explore private retirement arrangements, according to a guideline released last November to address population aging.

Private retirement arrangements, including commercial old-age insurance and other personal investments for retirement, are still nascent in China and lag behind the other two components of China's pension system -- the basic old-age pension and enterprise annuities, said the People's Bank of China in its 2021 report on financial stability.

The central bank emphasized the need to put more effort into private arrangements to make the system sustainable.

The November guideline has set a string of moves in motion. Last month, the country rolled out a private pension scheme to complement the nation's current pension system. It allows Chinese citizens to contribute up to 12,000 yuan (about 1,778 U.S. dollars) annually to individual pension accounts that would be subject to closed-end management.

This followed an announcement of the first batch of pilot wealth management products aimed at boosting individual retirement savings last December. This will enable local investors in the pilot cities of Wuhan, Chengdu, Shenzhen and Qingdao to purchase the financial products from the wealth management units of four designated banks.

The 16 such products available for sale by the end of the first quarter were met with great enthusiasm, raising 42 billion yuan from around 165,000 investors by the end of March, official data showed. The CBIRC expanded the pilot to 10 cities and 10 banks starting March.

In the near future, China's banks and insurance institutions will be encouraged to develop more financial services including and beyond the categories of retirement savings, wealth management, old-age insurance and pension, and to help clients make sound financial plans and hedge against risks, said the CBIRC in an April circular.

The circular also called for enabling clients to withdraw from their pension funds on a lifelong basis to meet their potential needs for medical and long-term care.

With the help of existing efforts and drawing on successful models in other parts of the world, analysts expect financial products for retirement in China to become more diverse, rules-based, inclusive and to cover longer terms.

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