KiwiSaver fee disclosure needs to improve: Mercer

Mercer, the only default KiwiSaver provider without a distribution network, has reduced fees on its funds.

It says the reduction is “in response to consumer demand for competitive pricing” and warns investors could be missing the point by focusing on the level of fees alone.

Mercer’s New Zealand boss, Martin Lewington, says a lack of transparency in the system and the inability for consumers to make direct comparisons between products is the real issue around costs.

“Mercer’s member research found that 86% of members rated competitive fees as an important or very important fund feature.”

Its changes include a reduction of more than 25% in the Mercer Superannuation Trust (MST) KiwiSaver product from $3.85 per member per month to $2.85.

Other changes included reductions in fees to its Cash Option, Active Balanced Option, and Membership fee, as well reducing the admin fee (to 0.15%) and Trustee fee (to 0.03%).

“Fees are necessary in most retirement income savings systems and it is true they can impact retirement savings.

“However, this is only one part of the picture: there is a broader problem in New Zealand with fees, which is not necessarily their size, but the lack of standardisation in relation to KiwiSaver, which makes it very difficult for consumers to compare apples with apples,” he said.

Mercer advocates the introduction of standardised fee disclosure and believes it will make product comparisons easier for researchers, advisors and consumers.

“We want to see greater transparency and visibility around the composition of fees, so that New Zealanders can make educated decisions regarding their retirement nest-egg.

“You only need to look as far as the labelling of fees by providers to see that it is inconsistent. For example some providers appear to load their admin fee into their investment fee while others quote their expected returns net of tax, investment fees and other expenses,” he said.

Lewington argues that it’s in the industry’s interests to make KiwiSaver easier to understand and standardisation is also needed around unit pricing.

Mercer has chosen to calculate unit prices net of tax and fees on a daily basis.