KiwiFund could have unfair advantage

A Government-run KiwiSaver scheme would have an unfair disadvantage that could push other providers out of business.

The KiwiFund Bill has been drawn from Parliament’s members’ bill ballot. If it’s passed it would put in motion an independent working group to establish a government-run and owned KiwiSaver scheme, KiwiFund.

It’s an idea that NZ First leader Winston Peters first proposed in 2014 and campaigned on again this year.

The working group would advise on how the fund could be set up with a lower, transparent fee structure, keeping profits in New Zealand, giving preferential treatment to New Zealand-based investments and focusing on socially and ethically responsible investment.

KiwiFund would receive a government guarantee.

Banking expert Claire Matthews said that would be a concern to existing providers.

“Why would you be a member of a non-government-guaranteed fund?

“What is the problem that the fund is designed to solve?  If it’s fees, we already have Simplicity operating in the market, and greater disclosure is being introduced to ensure KiwiSaver members are better informed.  In addition, it is a relatively competitive market, although we need to do more to ensure that competition is realised by ensuring members have greater interest in their KiwiSaver account, and therefore give greater consideration to their fund and their provider.”

Sam Stubbs, founder of Simplicity, said the scheme would have to be run passively. “There is simply too much moral hazard in having an active manager looking after individuals’ savings in the name of the Government. The NZ Super Fund is able to do this because it’s not in individual accounts.”

But he said there was a role for projects that married the long-term infrastructure requirements of the Government with long-term investments of KiwiSaver money.

“I’m quite keen on that as both sides win. I think it’s an opportunity we are missing right now as both sides run into their ideological corners on public private partnerships. KiwiSaver money is special in that regard, and the infrastructure requirements going forward will be massive.”

Other providers referred questions to the Financial Services Council, which has been approached for comment.