The Financial Markets Authority will take a closer look at the way fund managers update their investors after a general stocktake showed shortcomings in the way information is disclosed.

The market watchdog found managed investment schemes (MIS) met their general obligations to provide fund updates and most didn’t raise significant concerns. However, there were some instances where things could be improved, it said in a statement.

As a result of its stocktake, the FMA plans to:

– investigate why some statutory information is less prominent than other parts; 

– lobby for better disclosure of the benchmark a fund is linked to; 

– and look at why there’s a material difference between the way charges are stated in offer documents compared to quarterly updates.

“While the majority of fund updates did not report fund charges significantly higher than estimates provided in the product disclosure statement, four funds had a significant difference in fund charges when compared to the estimate in the PDS (product disclosure statement),” the regulator said. “The FMA is committed to further work and engaging with MIS managers to address these issues.”

Managed funds are seen as an increasingly important avenue for retail investors, with the government-sponsored KiwiSaver scheme offering attractive incentives to its 2.8 million active members. Funds under managed have more than doubled $162 billion as at December 31 from $73.9 billion as at June 30 2007, just before KiwiSaver was launched, Reserve Bank data show.

Still, households’ exposure to managed funds has remained relatively static at around 7.5 percent of their financial assets, with investment fund shares rising 57 percent to $66.48 billion over across all households over the same period.

The FMA’s review found 64 percent of fund updates held prominent places on the fund managers’ websites, however, 26 percent weren’t prominent and in 10 percent of cases, the regulator couldn’t find the updates after a “reasonable look”. The watchdog said it is “concerned” about the availability of those updates and their prominence, saying “there is no point in improving the content of fund updates if investors are not reading them, which may be more likely to be the case if fund updates are not prominent on an issuer’s website”.

The regulator said 53 percent of managers didn’t identify the relevant benchmark index in the fund update, while acknowledging that the industry and FMA are in discussions about market index obligations after a consultation last year.

The FMA also said 17 percent of managers reviewed showed materially higher fees than in the PDS, and that almost all updates didn’t say whether charges included or excluded GST. It said the GST issue needs greater clarity in the law, and said it will do further research to work out the discrepancy in fees.

Nikki Mandow was Newsroom's business editor and the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Business Journalist of the Year @NikkiMandow.

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