KiwiSaver — Ignorance is no defence
23 September, 2016
We KiwiSaver providers have been in the spotlight lately, with a couple of media articles raising questions about ethical investments, fees and disclosure.
It has been great so many KiwiSaver members have been prompted to contact their providers to find out more about how their KiwiSaver funds are invested.
I have enjoyed responding to members personally, explaining our approach to ethical investments and pointing them to where they can learn about each of their KiwiSaver investments.
I have to take issue with a Herald editorial this week entitled KiwiSavers need transparency to make choices. The editor suggested KiwiSaver members don't really know enough "about how and where our money is invested."
It goes on to say, "part of the responsibility, of course, falls on the investor."
Really? Just "part of" the responsibility? In legal circles, there is an established principle that ignorance is no excuse. Surely a similar principle should apply when it comes to our retirement savings.
If a KiwiSaver member has not taken any interest in where their retirement savings are invested, even though that information is freely and readily available, is that member partially or fully responsible for "not knowing enough"?
As a member of Fisher Funds KiwiSaver, I can see a full list of my investments by accessing my account online. I also receive full details of my investments and the fees paid for the returns achieved every month, and then again every quarter.
In the event I don't look at all the regular statements, I receive a printed annual report with a comprehensive listing of my investments.
The Herald editorial said an easily accessible, full list of KiwiSaver investments would "encourage Kiwi investors to take more interest in the performance and activities of the firms they're putting their money into."
I don't agree. We have always listed our investments and explained what they do but I am yet to see it encourage members to take more interest in the firms they're investing in.
We rarely receive inquiries about individual investments in our KiwiSaver schemes, much to the disappointment of our investment team who would love to explain their investment picks.
Our website statistics show the vast majority of visitors go straight to the pages showing account balance, investment performance and newsletter articles. They seldom visit the list of investments.
The editorial suggests investments should be "prominently displayed" rather than hidden in the fine print of disclosure statements. The editor possibly doesn't understand that, for most KiwiSaver schemes, there are far too many investments to hide in the fine print.
One of our KiwiSaver funds owns 1682 investments. I'm not sure that listing their names prominently will encourage members to take an interest.
Ever since launching Fisher Funds, I have assumed investors will be interested to know where their money is invested and why. For 18 years we have written about individual investments and our rationale for owning the stocks and bonds in our portfolio.
We've written about businesses, their management teams, their competition and their responses to the changing environment.
Short of taking them with us to company visits, there is not much else we can do to engage investors with the firms they're putting their money into.
You know the saying about leading a horse to water? The KiwiSaver water is ready and waiting. It's up to members to come and lap it up.
Footnote: Portfolio holdings and company descriptions can be found at https://kiwisaver.fisherfunds.co.nz/kiwisaver-portfolio/.