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Booster KiwiSaver passable, Morningstar says

Research house Morningstar has given faint praise to the KiwiSaver schemes operated by Grosvenor, now rebranded as Booster.

Thursday, September 29th 2016, 6:00AM 2 Comments

by Susan Edmunds

The balanced fund, balanced growth, conservative fund, high-growth fund and default saver fund have all been given a neutral rating in the latest update. They were previously rated negative.

Morningstar hands out gold, silver, bronze, neutral and negative ratings based on analyst research.

Analyst Elliot Lucas said Booster was an “acceptable option” in the KiwiSaver space.

“Firm founder Allen Yeo and CIO David Beattie launched this KiwiSaver strategy in 2007 with a very conservative approach, focused relentlessly on downside protection. This approach paid off very well in the 2008 financial crisis but subsequently proved a drag. After years of underperformance and after the firm’s acquisition of Fidelity Life KiwiSaver substantially expanded the number of advisers using the scheme, Booster implemented a big process change in late 2013. It moved the strategy’s asset allocation in line with the relevant peer group average and imposed tight risk budgets,” he said.

He said the new strategy was a major change in approach. Instead of focusing on absolute risk, the Booster team were looking at risk relative to peers.

“Booster still implements some tactical tilts when it believes the relative prices of asset classes have deviated significantly from long-run averages. The team plans to increase the risk budget allocated to these tilts over time. Exposures at the asset class level are still mostly passive, though Booster does pick securities for Australasian equities, domestic fixed income, and part of the global equities allocation.”

Lucas said the changes should mean less drastic under-performance but would also lose some of the extremely defensive nature of the previous strategy.

He raised a note of caution about the team managing the fund, calling it “of reasonable size in theory but under-resourced in practice”.

“Neither Beattie nor Yeo are fully focused on the portfolios and some of the analysts responsible for security selection - albeit within tight risk controls - are rather inexperienced.”

He said fees were also above average. Booster has been approached for comment.

Meanwhile his colleague Matthew Wilkinson gave Mercer’s KiwiSaver schemes a better result, awarding them a bronze rating.

“The portfolios boast the widest investment opportunity set in the market, and diversification across managers is high. For instance, no other KiwiSaver providers we cover invest into unlisted infrastructure or natural resources. The unlisted exposure was tempered in 2014 to bolster liquidity but still forms a significant part of the portfolios.”

He said that level of diversification meant relative performance was strong when traditional assets were performing poorly but lagged when markets were strong.

Tags: Grosvenor Financial Services KiwiSaver

« Fees in dollar terms? Easier said than doneKiwiSaver providers consider private investments »

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Comments from our readers

On 29 September 2016 at 8:04 am globug said:
Having tracked the returns every quarter of all KiwiSaver fund managers since 31 December 2007, using Morningstar information, I am stunned at this rating change. For the last 5 years (at least), the Grosvenor Balanced fund has consistently been in the bottom quartile of performance compared to its peers.

This is despite several 'changes' to investment strategy, and there is no evidence to date that this position has changed. Therefore, apart from a name change, what has changed with the Grosvenor KiwiSaver offering that would warrant a change in rating to this appalling performer?

I seriously question how any adviser can be putting their clients interests first by leaving their clients in the Grosvenor KiwiSaver offering (particularly given the relatively high 0.5% trail commission paid to the adviser.)
On 30 September 2016 at 7:57 am John Milner said:
Globug I think you answered your own question with 0.5% commission. Albeit unacceptable compared with most other schemes. (disclaimer: I don't provide KiwiSaver advice).

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