David Chaplin 's Opinion

A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

Inside Money: KiwiSaver minnows fighting the flows

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

With new KiwiSaver governance rules due to come in effect by October 1 the number of providers is certain to be whittled down, ever-so slightly.

While the total number of KiwiSaver schemes (excluding corporate-only ones) has remained more or less static at just over 40 since the regime launched five years ago, there's been a fair bit of coming and going in the interim.

However, the new rules, which require all KiwiSaver schemes open to the general public to appoint an independent corporate trustee, have forced the issue for a couple of the smaller operations.

It is understood both the MSF and PSBG KiwiSaver schemes have called it quits. Neither schemes are really household names: MSF, short for Mutual Superannuation Fund, is better known for its property-based super fund; PSBG invests money for a loose grouping of professional organisations, including architects, engineers and surveyors.

Over the five years in operation MSF has accrued six members and just over $60,000 in funds under management while PSBG boasts about 130 members and a tad under $2 million.

But they aren't the only schemes with scale issues. All the union-based KiwiSaver schemes, for instance, are struggling to attract members. Another profession-linked scheme, the Law Retirement KiwiSaver, reports just over 400 members.

The Macquarie Bank-owned Brook Asset Management is also something of a mystery presence in the KiwiSaver space. Brook was a big name in NZ funds management before its two principals, Simon Botherway and Paul Glass, abandoned ship in 2008. Since then Brook's funds under management, especially in the wholesale world, has evaporated.

Last week Brook shut down its Tasman Wholesale fund, which at one time was a huge component of the $1 billion plus the company managed.

Mark Ryland, appointed as Brook managing director last November, says the firm is concentrating more in the retail investment arena these days.

Ryland says Brook will continue to run a retail version of the Tasman fund, which currently has about $20 million under management.

He admits the Brook KiwiSaver scheme, which has approximately 400 members and $6 million under management, hasn't met expectations.

"[The KiwiSaver scheme] didn't really have a distribution strategy," Ryland says, but Brook and its Australian owner haven't given up on it.

The group recently restructured the scheme, adding a conservative option to broaden its appeal.

Ryland says Brook is also aiming to partner with corporates and independent financial advisers (as well as the Macquarie Private Wealth network) to push the KiwiSaver scheme.

It will, however, be an upstream battle.

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.

Read more by David Chaplin

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