KiwiSaver money pours into poor performers

By Tamsyn Parker

Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

Some of the worst-performing KiwiSaver funds have attracted the most money, data from Morningstar show.

The fund research firm has released its quarterly figures for the performance of KiwiSaver funds for the three months to June 30.

For the first time the charts also include how much money each fund has attracted from a total pool of $5.7 billion monitored by Morningstar.

The largest fund is ASB's default fund which has over $600 million. The fund is nearly double the size of any other default fund but is only 10th out of 16 funds for performance over two years in the conservative sector.

The top-performing fund - the Aon Russell Lifepoints Conservative fund - is one of the smallest at just $15.3 million.

The biggest contrast is in the growth sector where the Gareth Morgan Growth fund has attracted the most money at $121 million but is the worst performer over two years and bottom of the pack over the last three months.

The Gareth Morgan Balanced fund was also the largest balanced fund at $165 million but was second from bottom over two years and 18th out of 27 over the last three months.

Morningstar analyst Chris Douglas said the figures showed performance was not playing a big part in the decisions people were making.

"Brand image and marketing plays a big role in where people are investing their money. At this stage people are still finding their way around KiwiSaver."

There were a lot of providers but the majority of people who didn't choose the default option were going to brand names they already knew, he said. But Douglas believed performance numbers would become more important over time.

Gareth Morgan Investments director Andrew Gawith said it was fair to say its investment style had performed poorly next to its peers over the last two years but he believed it had done better over a longer timeframe since it began investing in October 2007.

Gawith said people were kidding themselves if they believed investing in the Gareth Morgan name would result in being the top performer.

"I don't think we have ever suggested you come with us for the best performance. There are no guarantees we can achieve that. It would be a silly claim to make."

Like any fund manager Gawith said Gareth Morgan Investments wanted to beat the benchmarks it set itself. "And generally we have done that."

He hoped the funds would be in the top half of performers over five years.

Gawith believed investors chose its KiwiSaver fund for many reasons other than performance.

"I think it is much more than performance which is a fairly fickle beast." Despite the outspoken nature of its founder the company tended to be more cautious than many people thought, Gawith said. "The real essence of KiwiSaver is service - reporting simply - we are still streets ahead in that area.

"I think performance is only one aspect of how people judge a fund manager, and I'm not just saying that because our performance is down.

"The fact we are continuing to attract numbers of people and their money reflects the fact we tell people a lot more about where their money is invested."

Gawith said its team constantly reviewed the performance of its funds and its strategy compared with others.

"At the moment we are sticking with it but that doesn't mean it won't change in the future."

KiwiSaver author Mary Holm said judging KiwiSaver funds on performance only was a tricky situation.

"Obviously we all want to move to a fund that is going to perform best from now on ... just how do you know which one will do that?"

Holm said some research had shown looking at past performance when it came to choosing a fund could either be bad or neutral as top performers tended to be riskier and that could be unsustainable in the future.

Holm placed fees above performance when it came to choosing a fund and also recommended looking at how easy it was to understand a provider's statement and ensuring the type of investment was right for the investor.

As to poor performance, Holm said some people who took a contrarian view moved their money to the worst performers believing they would be more likely to perform well but there was also a risk that the fund was not just a poor performer but had a bad manager. "A poor performer is not automatically a bad fund."

Looking at performance over a longer timeframe such as 10 years was a good way to tell if it was down to bad management, although there could be a change of manager over that time.

- NZ Herald

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