Pension fund

Pension fund

Program, fund, or scheme that provides retirement income

A pension fund, also known as a superannuation fund in some countries, is any program, fund, or scheme which provides retirement income.

Pension funds typically have large amounts of money to invest and are the major investors in listed and private companies. They are especially important to the stock market where large institutional investors dominate. The largest 300 pension funds collectively hold about USD$6 trillion in assets.[1] In 2012, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that pension funds worldwide hold over $33.9 trillion in assets (and were expected to grow to more than $56 trillion by 2020), the largest for any category of institutional investor ahead of mutual funds, insurance companies, currency reserves, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, or private equity.[2]

The U.S. Government's Social Security Trust Fund, which oversees $2.57 trillion in assets, is the world's largest public pension fund.


Open vs. closed pension fund

Open pension funds support at least one pension plan with no restriction on membership while closed pension funds support only pension plans that are limited to certain employees.[3]

Closed pension funds are further subclassified into:

  • Single employer pension funds
  • Multi-employer pension funds
  • Related member pension funds
  • Individual pension funds

Public vs. private pension funds

A public pension fund is one that is regulated under public sector law while a private pension fund is regulated under private sector law.

In certain countries, the distinction between public or government pension funds and private pension funds may be difficult to assess. In others, the distinction is made sharply in law, with very specific requirements for administration and investment. For example, local governmental bodies in the United States are subject to laws passed by the states in which those localities exist, and these laws include provisions such as defining classes of permitted investments and a minimum municipal obligation.[4][5]

How they work

It is important to distinguish difference between Pension plan, funds and firm. A pension plan is a benefits program set up and sustained by an employer or an employee group. They are managed by state or private firms as well as pension funds.[6] Pension funds are financial mechanisms that provide retirement income for employees after their working life. They work by accumulating contributions from employers, and sometimes employees, which are then invested to grow over time. Upon retirement, employees receive benefits, typically calculated as a percentage of their average salary during their working years. For instance, consider a scenario where a pension scheme offers a payment equivalent to 1% of an individual's average salary over the last five years of their employment for each year they served with the employer. Thus, if an employee worked for 35 years at the company and had an average final salary of $60,000, they would be entitled to an annual pension of $21,000. It is important to point out that one cannot usually take early withdraws or loan from pension. Public sector pensions, like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), often include cost-of-living escalator and can be more generous than private sector pensions. Private pension plans are regulated by federal laws such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and are insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which guarantees benefits if a pension plan fails. [7]

How Pension Funds Invest Their Money

Pension funds can make investments into stocks, bond, real estate, and other assets. However, they have to be prudently managed as it represents people retirement plan. For many years, they mainly invest into stable stocks and bond. [8] In order to keep a high returns, with changing market conditions, they started to invest into other assets.[9] Currently, many pension funds are moving away from managing active stock portfolios towards passive investment methods, focusing on index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that replicate market indices. Additionally, there's an increasing trend to diversify into alternative assets like commodities, high-yield bonds, hedge funds, and real estate.

Newer investment tools for pension funds include asset-backed securities, such as those tied to student loans or credit card debt, which are used to boost returns. Investing to Private equity is also rising in popularity; these are long-term investments in non-public companies, aimed at achieving substantial profits through eventual sales when these companies reach maturity.

Furthermore, real estate investment trusts (REITs) are becoming a frequent choice for pension funds due to their passive investment approach in the real estate sector. Direct investments in commercial properties like office buildings, warehouses, and industrial parks are also prevalent.[10]


Pension funds are important financial institutions which are managing the retirement savings of millions. Effective governance in these entities is crucial not only to safeguard these funds but also to ensure they meet their future obligations to pensioners. The governance structures, strategies, and practices of pension funds significantly influence their stability, performance, and the trust of their stakeholders. Proper governance ensures that decisions are made transparently and that fund managers are accountable to stakeholders, including employees, retirees, and employers.[11]

According to the OECD Guidelines for Pension Fund Governance,[12] the governance structure should clearly identify and separate operational and oversight responsibilities. Every pension fund should have a governing body, accountable to the pension plan members and beneficiaries. This body is ultimately responsible for ensuring adherence to the terms of the arrangement and the protection of the best interest of plan members and beneficiaries. The governing body should also meet minimum suitability standards to ensure a high level of integrity, competence, experience, and professionalism. Additionally, there should be adequate internal controls in place to ensure compliance with the law.


Many pension funds have problem with governance. In Hungary, where pension funds are established as not-for profit institutions, there is evidence that the governing body is generally ineffective in looking after the best interest of members. Most funds are established by financial institutions that find it easy to promote their candidates to the fund ‘s supervisory board. Some pension funds in the United States have also been the subject of governance problems too, as well as in other countries.[13]

History of pension funds

First concepts of providing retirement benefits has roots in ancient civilizations such as Rome and Greece. The pension system as we know it, has roots in the 19th century. German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, came in 1889 with an first modern pension scheme. His goal was to help older German´s citizens. However, this idea came from the United States of America. In 1875 American Express Company introduced its own pension plan.

During early 20th century pension plans for public employees were growing, which resulted in creating U.S. federal retirement plan, known a Social Security in 1935.After World War II, pension funds became primary tool for providing retirement benefits, which was supported by growth of labour unions. By the 1970s, evolved and became significant member of financial markets, because they were holding large amount of assets. But in 1980s and 1990s pension funds faced significant challenges. Stocks market crash in 1987 and recession in the early 1990s had negative impact on pension funds. Furthermore, demographic shifts and rising life expectancies placed pressure on these funds to sustain retirement benefits over extended durations.[14]


In the United States pension plans are regulated mainly by The Employee Retirement Income Security Act 1974(ERISA). It provides framework for the regulation of employee pension and plans which are private pension funds offering.

In 2006 was introduced The Pension Protection Act (PPA). This act come with new funding requirements for defined pension plans. As well as with new rules for calculating plan assets and liabilities.[15]

Pension funds in EU are regulated by Directive 2003/41/EC , also known as the IORP directive. This directive was recast and adopted in December 2016. It should promote long-term investment via occupational pension funds. Additionally, beneficiaries and members should now be better informed about their entitlements, address challenges faced by occupational pension funds operating across borders, and foster long-term investments in economic activities that boost growth, enhance the environment, and increase employment opportunities.[16]

Largest pension funds

The following table lists largest pension funds by total assets by the SWF Institute.[17]

More information Country, Fund ...

By country



Industry (not-for-profit)



  • ANZ Australian Staff Superannuation Scheme (for employees of ANZ Bank)


  • Aceprev
  • Baneses
  • Banesprev
  • Centrus
  • Forluz
  • Funcef
  • Fundação Banrisul
  • Fundação CESP
  • Fundação Itaubanco
  • Petros
  • PREVI - Caixa de Previdência dos Funcionários do Banco do Brasil[43] (the closed private pension fund for employees of the Brazilian federal government-owned bank)
  • Sistel
  • Valia




  • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Pension Plan (CAAT)
  • Boilermakers Pension Fund Trust
  • Labourers' Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada (LIUNA)
  • Teamsters Canadian Pension Plan
  • Telecommunication Workers Pension Plan
  • UFCW Canadian Pension Plan



Czech Republic

  • Pension funds form the third pillar of the Czech Republic's pension system[44] and allow people to invest regularly and voluntarily over the long term with state support and tax relief.

Penzijní připojištění (Pension Plan, PP)[45]

  • Pension Plan could be negotiated until the end of 2012. These funds are called "Transformed Funds" (TF). These carry a guarantee of non-negative appreciation in each year of saving. Therefore, their investment strategy is also conservative and based on investing in bonds and money market instruments. The fund credits appreciation only once a year.
  • The client does not hold any unit certificates or pension units, but, on the basis of the funds invested, state contributions and, where appropriate, employer contributions, holds a share in the fund's assets, which appreciate in value over time and are completely separate from the pension company.

Doplňkové penzijní spoření (Supplementary Pension Savings, DPS)[46]

  • Supplementary Pension Savings have been available since the beginning of 2013. They operate on a similar principle to unit trusts, except that they are set up by pension companies and the client receives pension units instead of unit certificates.
  • The main difference from the client's point of view is the possibility to choose the investment strategy of their savings. The three main strategies are:[47]
    • Conservative funds - a strategy suitable for clients who wish to invest safely in money market instruments.
    • Balanced (mixed) funds - a strategy suitable for clients who wish to take advantage of investing in government bonds and stocks within a single fund.
    • Dynamic funds - a strategy suitable for clients who wish to invest exclusively in stocks and expect high returns that beat inflation. In this case, a high risk of volatility must be taken into account. This risk can be mitigated by regular savings.

Dlouhodobý investiční produkt (Long-term Investment Product, DIP)[48]

  • As of 1 January 2024, a long-term investment product was launched, thanks to which it is possible to invest in shares, bonds or investment funds. In the context of Pension Plan (in Transformed Funds) or Supplementary Pension Savings, you can only invest in participatory funds offered by the pension company. You have no control over how the pension company handles the money you invest. In contrast, in Long-term Investment Product you can set up your investments as you see fit and you can change the composition of your investments over time.



  • Public Employees Pension Fund[49]


  • TAPILTAT, the Fund for Mutual Assistance of the Employees of Ioniki Bank and Other Banks, the multi-employer auxiliary pension fund

Hong Kong


  • Employees' Provident Fund Organisation – a statutory social security body of the Government of India that administers a mandatory Provident Fund Scheme, Pension Scheme and a death/disability Insurance Scheme. Provident Fund is applicable for employees across all establishments (private as well as government, subject to criteria). EPFO is the largest social security organisation in India with assets well over 5 lakh crore (US$159 billion) as of 2014.[51]
  • National Pension Scheme – a defined-contribution–based pension scheme launched by the Government of India open to all citizens of India on a voluntary basis and mandatory for the employees of central government (except Indian Armed Forces) who are appointed on or after 1 January 2004. Indian citizens between the age of 18 and 70 are eligible to join.[52]









  • Social Protection Fund


The pension system in Romania is made of three pillars. One is the state pension (Pillar I – Mandatory), the second is a private mandatory pension where the state transfers a percentage of the contribution it collects for the public pension, and the third is an optional private pension (Pillar III – Voluntary).

The Financial Supervisory Authority – Private Pension is responsible for the supervision and regulation of the private pension system.[54]

Saudi Arabia


  • The pension system in Serbia is made of three pillars. One is the state pension (Pillar I – Mandatory), where every insured person is obliged to pay contributions from their paycheck, the second is a voluntary state pension, where an uninsured person is voluntarily included in state pension system, and the third is an optional private pension (Pillar III – Voluntary).[55]
  • Pension and disability insurance fund





Social Security Institution was established by the Social Security Institution Law No:5502 which was published in the Official Gazette No: 26173 dated 20.06.2006 and brings the Social Insurance Institution, General Directorate of Bağ-kur and General Directorate of Emekli Sandığı whose historical development are summarized above under a single roof in order to transfer five different retirement regimes which are civil servants, contractual paid workers, agricultural paid workers, self-employers and agricultural self-employers into a single retirement regime that will offer equal actuarial rights and obligations.


  • Armed Forces Pension Fund[56]

OYAK (Ordu Yardımlaşma Kurumu/Armed Forces Pension Fund) provides its members with "supplementary retirement benefits" apart from the official retirement fund, T.C.Emekli Sandığı/SSK, to which they are primarily affiliated.

In addition to the retirement benefit, OYAK pays "disability benefits" to the members on duty when they become partially or fully disabled as well as "death benefits" to the heirs of the deceased member if the death occurs during the member's subscription to the foundation.

OYAK is incorporated as a private entity under its own law subject to Turkish civic and commercial codes. OYAK, while fulfilling its legal duties, as set in the law, also provides its members with social services such as loans, home loans and retirement income systems.

The initial source of OYAK's funds is a compulsory 10 percent levy on the base salary of Turkey's 200,000 serving officers who, together with 25,000 current pensioners, make up OYAK's members.

Some other Turkish private pension funds:

  • YAPI ve KREDİ BANKASI A.Ş. Mensupları Yardım ve Emekli Sandığı Vakfı
  • AKBANK T.A.Ş. Mensupları Tekaüt Sandığı Vakfı
  • TÜRKİYE GARANTİ BANKASI A.Ş. Memur ve Müstahdemleri Emekli ve Yardım Sandığı Vakfı
  • TÜRKİYE İŞ BANKASI A.Ş. Mensupları Emekli Sandığı Vakfı

United States

In the United States, pension funds include schemes which result in a deferral of income by employees, even if retirement income provision is not the intent.[57] The United States has $19.1 trillion in retirement and pension assets ($9.1 trillion in private funds, $10 trillion in public funds) as of 31 December 2016.[58] The largest 200 pension funds accounted for $4.540 trillion as of 30 September 2009.[59]


See also


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  4. "The 20 largest pension funds of the globe". 27 October 2017. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  5. Caprio, Gerard; Arner, Douglas W.; Beck, Thorsten; Calomiris, Charles W.; Neal, Larry; Véron, Nicolas, eds. (2013). Handbook of key global financial markets, institutions and infrastructure (1st ed.). Boston: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-12-397873-8. OCLC 785080462.
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  10. Stewart, Fiona; Yermo, Juan (2008-06-01). Pension Fund Governance: Challenges and Potential Solutions (Report). OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions. Paris: OECD. doi:10.1787/241402256531.
  11. "Pension Fund: Definition, History, and How it Works". Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  12. "Occupational pension funds - European Commission". Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  13. Top 100 Largest Public Pension Rankings by Total Assets
  14. Budget of the United States Government, FY2025, published March 11, 2024. Value as of September 30, 2023 Office of Management and Budget Retrieved March 11, 2024
  15. Budget of the United States Government, FY2025, published March 11, 2023. Value as of September 30, 2023. Office of Management and Budget Retrieved March 11, 2024
  16. Budget of the United States Government, FY2025, published March 11, 2024. Value as of September 30, 2023. Office of Management and Budget Retrieved March 11, 2024
  17. Financial Statements of the Thrift Savings Fund December 31, 2022 and 2021, released August 2023. Value as of December 31, 2022. Thrift Savings Fund. Retrieved March 11, 2024
  18. "Default". Retrieved 2023-08-29.
  19. "Annual Survey of Large Pension Funds and Public Pension Reserve Funds" (PDF). OECD. 2016-04-21. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-09-14. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
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  22. "FRR 2012 Annual Report" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-12-15.
  23. "NPRF". Archived from the original on 2017-02-10. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  24. Official Website of PREVI
  25. "ECENTRAL". Archived from the original on November 2, 2010.
  26. "Armed Forces Pension Fund". Archived from the original on 2017-10-22. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  27. Federal Reserve Statistical Release, Financial Accounts of the United States, Fourth Quarter 2016 Archived 2018-01-04 at the Wayback Machine, see pp.94-99. Values as of December 31, 2016. Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Reported March 9, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2017
  28. "P&I Online". Archived from the original on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2010-07-17.

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