How many KiwiSaver schemes are extinct?

Last updated 05:00 13/07/2014

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By our count there are 20 KiwiSaver schemes, though not all of them have entirely disappeared just yet.

KiwiSaver, like any boom industry, was always going to experience schemes failing to make the grade and attract customers.

It was also always going to see consolidation, with banks and fund managers with big ambitions buying the schemes of rivals to get themselves more customers, especially regular savers who virtually guarantee future growth.

And there were always going to be failed strategies.

In that first category - failing to attract customers - comes Asteron, the insurance company, which entered the market late, and though it is well-known among advisers, has a brand with little pulling power on retail investors, who are the lifeblood of KiwiSaver. Also in that category are some small schemes which hoped to draw support from specific workforces.

In the enthusiasm of the early days of KiwiSaver, it seemed so easy to launch a scheme, but getting numbers if you weren't a bank, a default scheme provider, or a fiercely professional fund manager like Milford or Fisher Funds, proved hard.

This included some single workplace schemes like Hexion, Stevenson Group, Turners & Growers, Ecolab and Griffins, but also some that hoped to draw savers from an affinity group like The Law Professionals scheme, the Professionals Superannuation and Benefits Group, and the union-linked IRIS scheme.

Two tiny property-focused schemes, MSF and Real Property, also lacked the legs to stay in business.

Into Fisher Funds' growing empire has gone the Huljich KiwiSaver book of business, the Credit Union scheme, First NZ Capital's scheme, and Tower's KiwiSaver scheme, which is now called the Fisher Funds Two scheme.

Also into the "consolidation" story of KiwiSaver go the takeover of AXA by AMP, which saw the schemes merged, the purchase by Kiwibank of the Gareth Morgan scheme, and the Fidelity Life scheme going to Grosvenor as part of a deal to release funding for Fidelity to buy the life insurance business of Tower.

And as Brook Asset Management showed, a KiwiSaver scheme built on the reputations of specific managers may not survive their departure.

Fisher Funds' Mark Brighouse said the costs of a scheme merger (legal advice, communication, additional staff training, rebranding and compliance work) are costs for the providers rather than the scheme members, who often end up paying reduced fees.

KiwiSaver providers have to absorb the costs and take a long-term view members will be happy with the new scheme, he said.

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Members can opt not to be included in a merger.

- Sunday Star Times

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