Editor’s Note: Robert Pozen
is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. This post is based on an article by Mr. Pozen that originally appeared in the Financial Times
I recently returned from a trip to Beijing, where I launched the Mandarin translation of a book that I co-authored with Theresa Hamacher entitled The Fund Industry: How Your Money is Managed.
The book was translated because the Chinese fund industry is expanding rapidly; Chinese mutual funds were introduced in 2001 yet held over $340bn in assets by the end of 2011.
However, the future development of the Chinese fund industry faces a stiff headwind. In China, most retail investors buy mutual funds hoping to score a quick short-term gain, rather than to generate long-term returns. The high turnover is usually costly to investors and stunts the development of the fund industry.
The short-term mentality of Chinese investors is reinforced by the fund industry, which spews forth an incredible number of new funds each year. Though fewer than 1,000 mutual funds exist in China, the industry launched 136 new funds in 2010 alone.
This flood of new funds is partly caused by large up-front commissions on fund sales paid to distributors, who also receive smaller fees on an annual basis. To collect these up-front commissions, distributors hype the new funds and investors rush to buy. But these investors hold for a relatively short time – until the next wave of new funds.
As a result, there are very few large funds in China that attract assets through long-term performance. One helpful reform would be to reduce up-front commissions on fund sales and put more emphasis on annual trailer fees that are collected only as long as shareholders remain in the fund.
…continue reading: Reform Needed in China’s Fund Business