Dear Mr Tan,
I compared the yield for the equivalent policies maturing in 2006 and 2007, as well as the yield in the original benefit illustration. This is not out of line with the maturity yield in 2008, considering that in 2006 and 2007, the long term yields were also quite good. The maturity yield in 2008 of 3.06% p.a. is also higher than the yield shown in the original benefit illustration. I set these out below:
2006 maturity 3.01% p.a.
2007 maturity 2.76% p.a.
2008 maturity 3.06% p.a.
Yield in original benefit illustration 1.65% p.a.
In 2008, we focused on the maintaining yields whilst changing the mix of annual and special bonus going forward. Under the old bonus structure it is an impossible strain on the fund to increase the yield by the extent indicated. To increase the yield by 2% p.a. to the policyholder requires an annual bonus of roughly 10% which will cost $400m when applied uniformly to all Growth policies. This is the more than the cost of bonus for the entire fund of $293m. As a result, the old bonus structure would have delivered the same yields in 2008 by default. A flexible special bonus is the way to go.
The new bonus structure is the first stage of the change. Following this with more flexible special bonus will allow maturity values to reflect asset shares more closely in subsequent bonus declarations. Indeed the Board has made the assurance on fairness of payouts and more work will need to be done to support this assurance. This will be tackled in 2009 as the second phase of the change.
I would like to highlight an additional consideration in 2008. Markets were very turbulent because of the sub-prime crisis at the time the bonus declaration was made. Much of the capital appreciation enjoyed in the 2007 has been reversed. They are still are very turbulent. It would not have been prudent to make an significant increase in bonuses and raise expectations at such a time of uncertainty.
REPLYDear Ken Ng,
When the policy was issued in 2003, the investment yield was very low and the bonus rate had been drastically reduced due to the previous crisis year. The benefit illustration were made based on the reduced bonus at that time.
In subsequent years, the investment yield had been significantly higher than projected. Under such circumstances, it would be appropriate for the bonus to be increased to reflect "the actual experience", as promised by your chairman in his speech at the recent annual general meeting.
I believe that the yield of 3.06% is far short of the actual experience over the past five years. The actual investment yields during 2006 and 2007 had been exceptionally high.
During 2006, there was a modest adjustment in the bonus rates, but it has does not reflect fully a fair rate of return. I would expect the good performance for 2007 to have justified a further significant increase in bonus (including a once-off bonus), but instead it was virtually kept unchanged.
As I have pointed out in my earlier letter, the actual yield of 3.06% is far short of the average yield of 7.8% earned by the Life Fund over the past 10 years, and far short of the actual yield earned during the last five years (from 2003 to 2007), which is possibly higher than 7.8%. For a maturing policy, you should give a fair return of return to reflect the "actual experience", instead of keeping a large part of the surplus in the Life Fund. The retention of the excess surplus in the Life Fund does not benefit the maturing policyholder and cannot be justified on the grounds of fairness.
I calculate that the difference in payout based on the amount that you are paying out, and the amount that is "fair and consistent with the actual experience", is more than $10,000 in this case. This is not an insignificant amount of money and cannot be just ignored. If you disagree with my calculation, I suggest that you refer this matter to an independent actuary to make the calculation.
I wish also to convey this message on behalf of many other policyholders, especially for policies that have or will be maturing this year and the next few years, who have not been given a fair payout based on the "actual experience".
I hope that you will agree to review this matter. Perhaps this matter can be referred to an impartial, independent party to arbitrate.
Tan Kin Lian