It was hailed as the change that would "shock" KiwiSaver investors into sitting up and paying attention to how much they were paying in fees.

But the move to present all fees in dollars - instead of showing some as percentages - on annual statements this year appears to have had little impact so far in prompting people to move schemes.

Inland Revenue figures show 42,496 people transferred KiwiSaver funds in May, June and July combined. That was nearly 4000 fewer than in the same three months last year.

Ayesha Scott, a senior lecturer in finance at Auckland University of Technology, says she is not surprised that the change hasn't resulted in any big shift.


She says it is too soon to tell whether the change had made a difference, and anyway, changing to a dollar amount does not provide enough information for people to make a decision.

"It has only just happened in relative terms, but also - and the bigger thing we need to be aware of - telling someone the dollar amount they pay in fees doesn't help them make a decision because there is no context put around it.

"It is just information in a slightly easier to digest form," she says.

Scott says she believes people need to be given more comparison information on their annual statement - either a median fee for similar funds, or the lowest fee, to allow investors to compare what their fund is charging compared to others.

"Giving the information to people is only one step. It doesn't address the main failure - we are still expecting people to take the information and do their own research and become engaged."

Scott says the barriers to helping people become engaged and make decisions need to be lowered.

"It is all very well knowing what you pay, but unless you are talking to everyone in your wider friendship circle, there is no context. It doesn't matter if you are paying $50 or $250."

Chris Douglas, director of manager research ratings at Morningstar in New Zealand, says the lack of transfers demonstrates how disengaged people are from their KiwiSaver schemes.


"There are always going to be people that pay attention to fees and switch schemes. Just by throwing a dollar-based figure on a statement doesn't change behaviour."

The change has made it easier for people to get information about how much they are paying, he says. "The challenge is, most people are not looking for it."

Douglas says the next step is working out how to engage people and get them to draw comparisons with other funds.

He says market conditions have been very strong, which could mean people are less focused on how much they are paying to have their KiwiSaver managed.

"I think it is a really positive development that we have brought this in. The next step is engaging people."

But he warns that this will be a long game, which would be helped by better education of young people through schools.

"That is where we are going to have the biggest impact."

However, he says there is more the industry needs to do as well, to engage people.

"It is a really difficult subject. People are inherently private about wealth; on top of that, it is not as exciting to talk about as planning a holiday or buying a house."

But Douglas believes if there is a downturn in the sharemarket, which sees KiwiSaver funds drop by 5 or 10 per cent, people could start paying more attention to their fund and how much they are paying in fees.

Investors' apparent lack of interest in fees could make it harder for providers who have campaigned on keeping their charges down.

Sam Stubbs, managing director of low-fee KiwiSaver provider Simplicity, which launched in August 2016, says despite the low switching numbers, his company has continued to grow its members and is now at just under 17,000 clients.

"I think the numbers are down because the banks are trying to sell less aggressively.

"Whether that will last or not, we will see."

He says the biggest enemy of KiwiSaver providers is apathy.

"Some [members of the public] clearly don't care, others just don't know.

"When you do things the first time, people don't notice it."

Research released by KiwiSaver regulator the Financial Markets Authority this month found just 31 per cent noticed their fees were in dollars this time around.

Stubbs says the average balance for KiwiSaver is around $15,000-$16,000, which means the average total fees being paid is around $150 or $160 a year.

For some people, that amount wouldn't register as being significant, he says.

Stubbs believes an independent website needs to be set up like Powerswitch, which tells people how much money they could save by switching KiwiSaver providers.

Richard Klipin, chief executive of the Financial Services Council - the industry body for investment companies, including KiwiSaver providers - says it is still early days yet. "The changes were introduced on 1 April and are still bedding in. Therefore, it is likely people will be getting used to the new KiwiSaver statements, so it's important not to rush to quick judgments."

With about $50 billion now invested in KiwiSaver, he argues that investors are showing more understanding of issues such as fees, how their money is invested and their returns.

"Managing fees is important, but fees are only one part of the overall picture," says Klipin.

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