Methodology: Step by step

This is how we built the App Where is my pension? and managed to reveal the route of your money.

por | Jun 28, 2021

Este reportaje fue realizado con el apoyo del Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting y el Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad.

1. How we obtained the data

Information requests via FOI

The way to collect the names of the companies and entities financed by the pension funds had different degrees of difficulty in each country. Through requests via information transparency laws, we turned to the relevant institutions in the nine countries at the end of 2019. This required a previous research work in documentary sources, to be certain about which entity had the duty to have the records. Here the detail of their names:

• Peru: Superintendency of Banking, Insurance and AFP (SBS)

• Chile: Superintendency of Pensions (SP)

• Mexico: National Commission of the Retirement Savings System (Consar)

• El Salvador: Superintendency of the Financial System (SSF)

• Colombia: Financial Superintendency (SF)

• Uruguay: Central Bank of Uruguay (BCU)

• Costa Rica: Superintendency of Pensions (Supen)

• Dominican Republic: Superintendency of Pensions (Sipen)

• Panama: Social Security Fund (CSS)

In each request for information, we required the compositions of the investment portfolios managed by the pension administrators detailed at monthly cut-offs, by administrator, type of fund according to risk (if the type exists), name of issuer, financial instrument, and amount of the investment as of the cut-off date.

The data received

In the cases of Chile, Peru, and Costa Rica, the information was available on their official web pages; however, it was decided to also place the orders to have additional confirmation of the information. In the case of Costa Rica, the data from the Mandatory Pension Plan were considered exclusively, since this is the regime based on individual capitalization.

Through requests for information, it was also possible to obtain information from the Dominican Republic and Colombia with the requested variables. In the case of the last country, it was necessary to resort to more than one instance, while at first the official answer was that the information on the investments was in «reserve», under the category of «private information» owned by the administrators. of pensions.

Unfortunately, El Salvador’s regulator provided very uneven data for each year. Only the data corresponding to the years 2018 and 2019 had a level of detail close to that requested, it did not contain the type of instrument and it was not in monthly but quarterly cuts. Despite insisting with other requests, no additional or different information was provided.

In both Mexico and Uruguay, detailed information on investments is considered confidential. Panama did not provide the requested data or a conclusive response.

2. Experts as members of our team

The next step was to analyze all the data collected from the hand of specialists, for which two experts in investment funds joined our team: Aldo Fuertes and Óscar Salazar. With his advice we identified the same variables in the data of each country, this was necessary because in several cases we were provided with more variables than we had requested via transparency. When there were additional questions, we consulted directly with the country’s regulator. Specifically, we extracted the following variables: name of the administrator, name of the issuer (of the securities), type of fund according to risk (if the type exists) and amount of the investment.

3. Cleaning and organizing a new database

A total of 7,352,029 records (investment transaction information rows) were processed. From this data, a unique list of issuers (investment recipients) was extracted from the local data of each country and each one was assigned an ID, a number. The list of each country went through a first cleaning carried out by one of the team members, a second one carried out by a different member, and a final review by one of the project editors. The objectives were to validate: 1) the correct spelling of the name, 2) avoid repetitions, 3) identify name changes. The names were validated online on the portals of the public records of each country, in the annual reports of the companies and in specialized portals such as Morningstar and Bloomberg.

MySQL was used to organize a new database with the verified names of the emitters and the other variables extracted from the local databases. Here is the detail of the number of issuers by country:

• Chile: 1,335

• Colombia: 1189

• Peru: 576

• Costa Rica: 128

• Dominican Republic: 86

• El Salvador: 59

For the conversion of investment amounts from local currency to US dollars, we use the data from the International Monetary Fund Office of Statistics at the end of each month for the 2010-2019 period. This record indicates the amount of local money that is equal to one dollar as of the cut-off date.

4. Visualizations

The team of Where is my pension going, created a microsite for the exclusive use of reporters who are members of the project. There were between 3 to 5 different views per country, from the same data. The design of each visualization was widely discussed based on its usefulness in answering key questions to find stories or feed previously identified stories. MySQL, PHP and JavaScript were the programs used as part of these visualizations; and to make the calls to the server Ajax was used.

For the App Where is my pension? published on this website, a navigation route was designed for the user, who is asked to select two variables: their country and the name of their administrator. The objective was for him to get directly to the route of the money handled by the pension administrator of his interest.

Additionally, we made available another version of the App (advanced data) in which the investments made with pension funds can be investigated in greater detail through four different visualization options.

5. Download the data

Here you can download the data behind the visualizations of each country:




Dominican Republic

Costa Rica

El Salvador