David Chaplin 's Opinion

A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

Inside Money: Empty chairs at Westpac KiwiSaver funds table

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Who's managing Westpac's substantial pool of KiwiSaver money right now? Photo / Thinkstock
Who's managing Westpac's substantial pool of KiwiSaver money right now? Photo / Thinkstock

Westpac has been the most successful non-default asset-gathering KiwiSaver provider over the last year at least without question.

According to my research, Westpac grew by the fastest rate over the year to March 31 and is pushing hard against its bank rivals - namely ASB and ANZ - who have the added benefit of default member flows.

It's hard to say why Westpac has been so successful - even relative to other banks - in the KiwiSaver space but it's certainly not due to the high profile of its underlying funds management operation - BT Funds.

BT NZ, once one of the biggest name investment brands in NZ, has gone into its shell over recent years, confined to looking after the bank's in-house money with virtually no external clients, if any.

The bank's KiwiSaver scheme, however, managed to accumulate upwards of $1.3 billion and over 26,000 members by March this year - so who's managing this substantial pool of money right now?

Well certainly not BT's long-time chief investment officer, Paul Richardson, who left the Westpac-owned fund manager this October along with the group's head of fixed income, Andrew Blackler.

This is a big enough change and the reasons behind the manager departures are not yet clear but perhaps members should be informed.

Most Westpac KiwiSaver members probably wouldn't have been aware who the personalities behind the fund manager brand facade are but a change of this magnitude is usually important enough to warrant a 'hold' rating by researchers in the retail fund space until a suitable transition has been mapped out.

Not that a 'hold' rating would have any affect in the KiwiSaver world, which is the beneficiary of just about unstoppable government-mandated (and partly administered) flows.

Nonetheless, a couple of advisers I spoke to today who had recommended clients into the Westpac scheme had sent out an information note on the matter.

David Chaplin

A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

David is a freelance journalist who has covered the financial services business on both sides of the Tasman for over 15 years. David has edited magazines and websites for the financial advice, investment and superannuation industries. Today, he contributes to various publications in Australia as well as his bi-weekly blog for the NZ Herald under the 'Inside Money' banner.

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