Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: Exit stage right - Morgan bows out

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Gareth Morgan's biggest achievement in KiwiSaver was putting the issue of unit pricing on the mainstream agenda, says David Chaplin. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Gareth Morgan's biggest achievement in KiwiSaver was putting the issue of unit pricing on the mainstream agenda, says David Chaplin. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Gareth Morgan's official personal presence in the KiwiSaver world will not be sadly missed by any of his competitors.

Morgan, who in a much-anticipated move resigned last week from his eponymous funds management business along with investment manager Andrew Gawith, had a particular gift for baiting the industry from a position way up in the moral high grounds.

This may have been a sincere attempt to clean up an industry short on goodwill. Or perhaps it was a calculated marketing ploy.

Either way, the Morgan method worked a treat: in the early days GMK (Gareth Morgan KiwiSaver) was the fastest-growing non institutionally-owned scheme - making it ninth out of 42 schemes in the first year of operation.

Although the GMK member annual growth-rate eased off from a high of about 90 per cent in the 2008/9 year (17th out of 43 schemes) to just 6.3 per cent (32nd out of 41) in the 2011/12 year, by the time of its sale to Kiwibank last year it had amassed about 56,000 members and was the 13th largest provider.

From a standing start, with little distribution and only the moustachioed-brand economic commentator as a Unique Selling Proposition, this was a very impressive achievement. Just as impressively, Morgan et al sold out to Kiwibank at exactly the right moment, banking $50 million when the KiwiSaver growth rate began to hit natural limits.

And while GMK has justifiably won accolades for its member communication efforts, its investment performance hasn't garnered similar praise. You'd struggle, for example, to find many happy GMK growth fund members.

The growth fund itself is heavily weighted towards global index funds - exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and the like. For example, the Blackrock MSCI Index Fund currently accounts for almost 12 per cent to the total GMK growth portfolio. However, the fund also owns a few direct international shares including LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Pernod-Ricard SA. As a balance to the luxury brands (and perhaps reflecting the opportunities arising as the rich/poor divide widens) GMK also has stakes in McDonalds and Domino Pizza.

But that's an aside. To my mind, Morgan's biggest achievement in KiwiSaver was putting the issue of unit pricing on the mainstream agenda.

Until Morgan began expounding on the subject, very few citizens would've given the subject much thought (and sensibly so).

GMK has its own unique way of valuing its holdings, setting an entry/exit price but once a month. Ironically, the lack of daily unit pricing (industry standard practice) could be one of the reasons Kiwibank has struggled to amalgamate its other AMP-managed KiwiSaver scheme with GMK. Announced last September and scheduled for completion about now, the merger of the two Kiwibank schemes has yet to be finalised.

But now that Morgan has exited maybe a unit price can be struck.

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