Pension Fund Performance and Costs: Small is Beautiful
46 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2007 Last revised: 6 Nov 2012
Date Written: April 30, 2010
Using the CEM pension fund data set, we document the cost structure and performance of a large sample of US pension funds. To date, self-reporting biases and a deficiency of comprehensive return and cost data have severely hindered pension fund performance studies. The bias-free CEM dataset resolves these issues and provides detailed information on fund-specific returns, benchmarks and costs for all types of pension plans and equity mandates. We find that pension fund cost levels are substantially lower than mutual fund fees. The domestic equity investments of US pension funds tend to generate abnormal returns (after expenses and trading costs) close to zero or slightly positive, contrasting the average underperformance of mutual funds. However, small cap mandates of defined benefit funds have outperformed their benchmarks by about 3% a year. While larger scale brings costs advantages, liquidity limitations seem to allow only smaller funds, and especially small cap mandates, to outperform their benchmarks.
Keywords: Pension Fund, Performance, Costs, Liquidity
JEL Classification: G23, G11, G14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation