Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: Investing with intent: another year with NZ Super

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Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

As customary with New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZS) publications, its latest 'Statement of intent' is jam-packed full of information.

And despite the inevitable technical jargon clogging up its sentence flow on occasion, the NZS 'Statement of intent' should be intelligible to the lay reader.

To aid the understanding of any newcomer to this sub-genre of financial literature, the NZS has included dinky break-out boxes covering topics such as "what is passive management "and "what is a counterparty".

Somewhat reluctantly, the NZS has also published a fund performance estimate for the financial year ahead.

"We are legally required to outline our expectations for the performance of the Fund over the next financial year," the NZS statement says. "Predicting short-term financial market returns with any useful accuracy over such a near-term horizon is, however, impossible."

Despite the impossibility of the task, NZS picks the return of the fund over the next 2013/14 financial period will be 9.6 per cent. If this turns out to be wrong, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

But if guessing annual returns is just a pointless task designed to meet legal obligations, the NZS does cover off some real business that could affect the fund's future performance.

For example, the NZS plans to switch on a new investment performance reporting system soon, called PEARL - a product supplied by Ortec Finance, which was chosen after the usual "global search for a solution provider".

PEARL, which does all kind of fancy stuff such as "risk decomposition", is necessary, the NZS says, because the fund does investing different these days.

"The Fund's shift away from a traditional asset allocation 'bucket' approach to a more opportunistic investing style has increased its performance reporting needs," the NZS document says.

Another important change of NZS function, first reported in this column last year (or was it the year before?), is also highlighted in the statement.

"Over 2013/14 the Fund will transition its passive portfolio of listed New Zealand equities to active in-house management," the NZS says. "We believe the New Zealand equity market is conducive to active management and that establishing an internal active management function will give us the opportunity to tailor our portfolio to the Fund's investing horizon, liquidity endowments and responsible investment approach, thus maximising long-term returns."

The market will be watching closely how the NZS integrates its own NZ active share activities with its current proxy managers in the sector, AMP Capital, Milford Asset Management and Devon Funds Management.

First, however, the NZS will have to finish hiring its New Zealand equities team, adding to a total Fund staff of more than 80 as at January this year.

In fact, total NZS staff numbers are predicted to hit "101.2 full-time equivalent employees by 30 June 2018", according to the statement.

Total cost for all this in 2013/14 is forecast to reach $116.2 million, or 0.52 per cent of funds under management (FUM), or $144.3 million (0.64 per cent of FUM) including external fund manager performance fees (assuming they perform).

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