The Financial Markets Authority is warning KiwiSaver investors not to rely on a correlation between funds which charge high fees and those that give good returns.
The FMA's KiwiSaver annual report, released yesterday, has a strong focus on the level of fees charged by KiwiSaver providers.
Data in the report shows fees for "active members" (those not in default funds) have almost doubled over the last five years, from $90 per person to $173.
Over the last year, average fees rose more than 19 per cent. Some of this increase will be related to fund growth because KiwiSaver providers charge their members a percentage of the amount they have invested.
But that isn't the whole story, with fees paid rising faster than sums invested.
And the FMA's KiwiSaver Tracker tool, which correlates fund return and fee data, shows "no clear link between higher fees and higher returns, apart from a couple of standout funds".
FMA director of regulation Liam Mason says that's the message the organisation is trying to get out to investors — they need to make active choices about their fund.
"We don't see a strong correlation between fees and returns, but we do see a relationship between fund choice and return."
He says the FMA hopes the advent of two low-fees providers — Simplicity and Juno — in the market will move the dial in terms of fees overall.
Juno doesn't charge fees for savers aged under 18, and has a graduated structure, so savers with lower balances pay lower fees.
Another concern is whether KiwiSaver providers are lowering fees as the total amount of money invested increases.
Total KiwiSaver assets rose to $48.6 billion this year, and there are now 2.8 million members, up 4.2 per cent since March 2017.
Mason says part of the FMA's work plan is to look at how fees paid by Kiwis stack up internationally, and to check if the definition of an "unreasonable" fee in the KiwiSaver legislation is fit for purpose.