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Poland - Funds that are flying

Poland has rebuilt its pension system from the ground up. Twenty-one funds had the chance to tap a massive new market but three have emerged as clear leaders. Those outside this group will find it almost impossible to make up ground, while the mainly foreign winners are showing remarkable prospective share ratings. Ian Dawson reports


It is hard not to marvel at the Poles as they build their financial architecture. Starting, in the main, with a blank sheet of paper, they develop solutions of mind-boggling complexity - combining international best practice with purely local methodologies. The launch of the Polish pension industry in 1999 continued this grand tradition - surpassing the establishment of capital markets in the early 1990s and the National Investment Fund programme of 1996.

A frenzy of activity was unleashed in March. Four hundred thousand pension advisers were licensed - more than 1% of the population became pensions salesmen - for periods of up to nine months. Twenty one pension funds, owned by 48 different corporate shareholders, were given six months to sign up an estimated six million Polish citizens aged below 30, and as many in the 30 to 50 age group (potentially a further seven million) as they could manage.

Only agricultural workers and members of the armed forces escaped this onslaught of financial advice. It is an emerging-market Klondike and, as with any gold rush, some big winners and losers are being thrown up.

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