Information designed to give people a basic overview of a KiwiSaver scheme may instead be confusing them and making it harder for people to compare schemes, research has revealed.

A study by AUT university asked 48 people for their thoughts on the usability and readability of a real but anonymised product disclosure statement.

The statements are meant to be provided to all potential investors of a KiwiSaver scheme to help people compare it with other schemes and decide whether to invest in it.

But the research found more than half of those surveyed didn't think there was nearly enough information in the document to make an investment decision.

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More than half indicated they would not use a product disclosure statement to make a decision about KiwiSaver.

Ayesha Scott, an AUT finance professor and co-author of the research, said that it raised questions about the usefulness of the statements.

"With such a high proportion of people we spoke to not finding all the information they needed in the product disclosure statements it really leads to the question of where they go looking for that information. Is it a reliable, credible source that they can trust? And does that source know what they talking about?" Scott said.

Scott and co-author Aaron Gilbert also found investors struggled to compare information across providers because common KiwiSaver information and fund-specific details were intertwined, making it hard to distinguish the unique offering of a provider versus what is common across all KiwiSaver providers.

A number of people in the focus groups were also unclear why KiwiSaver existed because the statements included information about the risks but not the benefits.

"We were a little shocked by the lack of trust and myths around KiwiSaver. Our participants knew KiwiSaver was important, but they did not always know why," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said investors wanted to make good decisions but had no idea how to go about that or where they could find independent information.

"We encourage anyone feeling this way to go to the sorted.org.nz website," he said.

Scott said investors needed information that would help them choose the right investment rate, fund type and provider.

"The information provided in investor documents, such as product disclosure statements, should help with this process, but the study found this was not the case.

"We know many investors are not engaged with their KiwiSaver, and we should be asking why. How can we reach all New Zealanders?" Scott said.

The researchers have called for a number of changes to statements:

• Basic information relevant to all KiwiSaver funds in a separate stand-alone document prepared by an independent organisation, as opposed to fund providers.
• The stand-alone document containing a glossary of standard terms.
• A short quiz at the beginning of the product disclosure statement to gauge the appropriate fund type for an investor.
• Documents organised by fund type rather than topic to allow for easy comparison.
• Disclosure information split into two parts –general information about KiwiSaver common to all providers and provider-specific information prepared by a third party.
• Document formatting with accessibility for all readers to the forefront.