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Beware fees when choosing a multi-asset manager

David Brenchley  |  23 May 2018Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Golden eggs

While many investors are confident enough to pick their own diversified portfolios, others will prefer a one-stop-shop fund, outsourcing their investment and asset allocation decisions to the experts.

Some will happily delegate their decisions to their investment platform and park their cash in model portfolios, but there are other options: one of these is a multi-manager solution, also known as a fund of funds.

As the latter name suggests, these are collective, open-ended offerings, which invest in other open-ended funds.

As a rule, fund of funds will invest across the asset spectrum, including alternative assets as well as equities and bonds. As a result, they can often appeal to less experienced investors, who don’t have the time or knowledge to do their own asset allocation, allowing them access to a diversified portfolio in a single fund.

David Holder, senior analyst at Morningstar, says multi-manager funds can be a good one-stop-shop, but it can be difficult to understand the overall asset mix within them. "I think for general investors, they’re a pretty good vehicle," he says.

However, he does have one proviso – cost. A fund that invest in other funds come with multiple layers of costs: you pay a fee for the initial fund itself, which in turn pays costs for each of the funds it invests in.

"If you just sat on it for 25 years and each year they’re taking, say, 150 basis points out of you, that compounds enormously and it can be pretty painful," Holder adds.

Funds do have the ability to negotiate fees downwards, meaning you may be able to access funds for a lower charge than if you invested directly yourself. Others, known as "fettered funds" will attempt to mitigate the fee drag by only investing in funds offered by their own house. However, this option narrows down clients’ investable universe hugely.

Holder says that some of the more cautious offerings will do this more as returns on conservative mandates are, inevitably, lower than more adventurous ones, meaning fees will take a larger chunk out of returns. However, adds Holder, if the fees are reasonable, you’ve got a good chance of getting a reasonable outcome over time.

Cherry picking the best

Unfettered multi-manager funds have other benefits in that they can "harness the skills of very talented and deep teams across the asset class", explains Amanda Siller from Jupiter Asset Management, which has a multi-asset offering; they can "cherry pick the very best”.

These vehicles can also give investors access to funds that may be unavailable to retail investors – or even to some investment platforms.

"There are many funds, which will never make it on to buy lists, that are available to people like ourselves,” explains Rob Burdett from another player in the space, BMO GAM.

Edgewood’s US Growth fund, which invests in just 24 companies, has thrashed what is widely seen as a difficult index to beat – the S&P 500 – over the long term and is only available to professional investors.

Memnon’s European fund, meanwhile, is soft-closed. Its largest investors are the fund managers; Burdett’s team is the second largest holder. “We’ve had a great time investing with those guys,” Burdett says.

Holder says there is an important distinction in those motivated in beating an index, and those that are soft-closed. This can help to add value and go some way to justifying the extra layer of fees charged. It also brings in another consideration: manager experience, and their ability to identify lesser known funds.

“[Manager] experience counts for a lot,” says Holder. “To have seen these [different market] cycles is important.” Checking the teams behind the funds is also key, he adds.

Large network of support

While John Chatfield-Roberts is the named manager on Jupiter’s offerings, and Burdett and Gary Potter on the F&C products, there is a large network of support behind them. "We’re always interested in seeing how teams operate in terms of responsibility for sectors, decision making and who takes ownership of ideas for particular funds," says Holder.

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David Brenchley is a reporter for Morningstar UK.

© 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'class service' have been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information at www.morningstar.com.au/s/fsg.pdf. Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782 ("ASXO"). The article is current as at date of publication.

is a Reporter for Morningstar.co.uk.

© 2020 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'class service' have been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information at www.morningstar.com.au/s/fsg.pdf. Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782. The article is current as at date of publication.

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