Nordic welfare financiers made global portfolio investors : institutional change in pension fund governance in Sweden and Finland
- Publisher: Centre for Employment Work and Finance, University of Oxford
Pension funds have lately emerged as an essential field of study in various disciplines within social sciences. Political economists, economic geographers and some social policy researchers have studied the role of pension funds very broadly for instance in context of labour market relations, economic development and financial systems. Yet comparative studies in social and public policy have for long studied pension funding mostly in respect to its role in pension systems and reforms, and to the effects of investment returns to the development of retirement income benefits. Whereas the comparative studies have mostly focused on the savings and ‘liability side’ (e.g. pension benefits) of pension funds, in this paper, we conduct a comparative analysis on the politics of ‘the asset side’. It is argued that the economic and social consequences of the usage of pension capital need to be understood as intrinsic parts of pension regimes that cannot be left outside classification of these regimes in social sciences. Our comparative analysis studies the historical regulative institutional development paths of pension fund investment governance in Finnish (TEL/TyEL) and Swedish (ATP/AP, PPM) first pillar, second tier pension systems. The time period of the analysis is from the establishment of these systems in late 1950s and early 1960s to the recent reforms of last few years. Both systems have developed so that the role of financier of national economy has decreased and the role of more global portfolio investor increased over time. We argue, however, that there have been very significant differences between the institutional development paths leading to the new investor roles. The Swedish model has included more paradigmatic qualitative changes in the whole pension regime whereas the changes in Finnish pension fund governance have been rather parametric and quantitative. The financial crisis of 2007–08 has also illustrated some essential differences between the current systems.