Investor sophistication and risk taking

Using investment policy data of 857 Dutch pension funds during 1999–2006, we develop three indicators of investor sophistication. The indicators show that pension funds’ strategic portfolio choices are often based on coarse and less sophisticated approaches. First, most pension funds round strategic asset allocations to the nearest multiple of 5%, similar to age heaping in demographic and historical studies. Second, many pension funds invest little or nothing in alternative, more complex asset classes, resulting in limited asset diversification. Third, many pension funds favor regional investments and as such do not fully employ the opportunities of international risk diversification. Our indicators are correlated with pension fund size, in line with the expectation that smaller pension funds are generally less sophisticated than large pension funds. Using the indicators for investor sophistication, we show that less sophisticated pension funds tend to opt for investment strategies with less risk.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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