The impact of costs

Calculations compiled by Itransact suggest that if an amount of R100 000 was invested over 20 years at an investment return of 15% per annum (inflation is an assumed 6%) at a cost of 1%, the investor would lose 17% of his returns as a result of fees. If costs climb to 3%, the investor would sacrifice almost 42% of his returns.

Unfortunately, it is not always that easy to get a clear sense of what you pay and what it is you pay for, but the introduction of the Effective Annual Cost (EAC), a standard that outlines how retail product costs are disclosed to investors should make this easier.

Shaun Levitan, chief operating officer of liability-driven investment manager Colourfield, says the time spent looking around for a reduced cost is time worth allocating.

“I think that any purchase decision needs to consider costs, but there comes a point at which you get what you pay for.”

You don’t want to be in a situation where managers or providers are lowering their fees but in so doing are sacrificing on the quality of the offering, he says.

“There tends to be a focus by everyone on costs and [they do] not necessarily understand the value-add that a manager may provide. Just because someone is more expensive doesn’t mean that you are not getting value for what you pay and I think that is the difficulty.”

Costs over time

Despite increased competition and efforts by local regulators to lower costs over the last decade, particularly in the retirement industry, fees haven’t come down a significant degree.

Figures shared at a recent Absa Investment Conference, suggest that the median South African multi-asset fund had a total expense ratio (TER) of 1.62% in 2015, compared to 1.67% in 2007. The maximum charge in the same category increased from 3.35% in 2007 to 4.76% in 2015. The minimum fee reduced quite significantly however from 1.04% to 0.44%.

Lance Solms, head of Itransact, says the reason fees remain relatively high, is because customers are not asking active managers to reduce their fees. He argues that it is easier for investors to stick to well-known brands, even if they have access to products that offer the same return at a cheaper fee.

And despite a flood of communication regarding fees, intermediaries are not yet as sensitive about costs as one would have hoped, Kellerman adds.

But there are also other factors to consider.

Although more rigorous regulatory oversight in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, compliance requirements have resulted in significant cost implications for the entire value chain, Kellerman says.