The recently-revamped New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZS) website sets a new benchmark for full disclosure.
Of course, the NZS is renowned for its openness - winning awards and consistently scoring 10-out-of-10 in the transparency index - but the new site lets in a little more light.
While the previous NZS website was information-packed, the current version is easier to negotiate for the lay reader and includes a few different metrics. For example, the list of external managers summarises who was hired and fired over the last year (three in, five out).
Elsewhere the fund's cost ratio is clearly revealed, including a bar chart tracking relative expenses (creeping up to 0.6 per cent of funds under management in the latest measurement) since inception. For those interested in more in-depth cost/benefit analysis, NZS provides a link to reports from global research firm CEM Benchmarking.
The most recent CEM Benchmarking shows for the five years ending December 2012, NZS did OK, racking up "net value added" of 0.8 per cent.
"This was above the Global median of -0.2 per cent and above the peer median of 0.2 per cent," the CEM Benchmarking report says. "Your actual cost of 58.6 bps [basis points] was close to your benchmark cost of 57.9 bps. This suggests that your fund was normal cost. Your fund was normal cost because your lower cost implementation style was offset by paying more for some services."
The NZS FAQs also asks the, possibly controversial, Q: 'how much money would we have if Bill English hadn't choked during the GFC and cut off our contributions?'
To be fair, the NZS didn't phrase it like that but nonetheless it estimates the fund would now be sitting at over $40 billion (compared to the actual $26.1 billion) and would've earned $3.6 billion more of "excess returns" (that is above the benchmark of Treasury bills plus 2.5 per cent) - if English hadn't choked.
That's all very interesting but I prefer the less-frequently-asked questions such as 'what is the NZS cupcake policy?'. The answer is to be found in the NZS gift and hospitality register which records three staff members "retained" cupcakes donated by the AUT on May 16 this year. Most other donations (with the notable exception of a Swedish rug), including two University of California ties, a "water carafe and glass" and "1 x Simplus and 1 x Pilairo Obstructive Sleep Apnea masks", were re-gifted to charity auctions.
And while there's no free lunch in investing - with the alleged exception of a diversified asset allocation* - NZS staff have been shouted many a "working meal" and "drinks" over the 12 months to June 30, 2014. Just this February 7, for example, John Key treated NZS boss, Adrian Orr, the food while Australia's PM paid for drinks in line with trans-Tasman Closer Economic Relations protocols.
* I should disclose here my own free lunch with NZS head of asset allocation, David Iverson, on June 18 this year. Neither taxpayer dollars, nor cupcakes, were consumed.