Australian investors in managed funds must put up with record keeping that is stuck in the Dark Ages. While a couple of unit registrars are genuinely interested in being the ‘scale player’, much of the market stagnates on the internal systems of funds managers, which struggle to reinvest in the latest technology, or on the registries of custodians which in some cases are unwilling providers of the service. Studies have suggested that the real cost of unit registry for every investor in every Australian managed fund is as much as $90 a year, stratospherically high compared to our peers. Turnaround times of three weeks on statement requests are industry standard. In December 2009, Conexus Financial (publisher of this magazine) and Computershare convened a roundtable to discuss how the unit registry process could be made more efficient. Overseas, transfer agency is typically a discrete, outsourced process, while in Australia it tends to live alongside the fund accounting and unit pricing functions. Is there a sound operational reason why this should be the case? Is the fragmentation and under-investment that’s rife in unit registry best solved by the emergence of true ‘scale players’, or by key stakeholders – perhaps a group of custodians – co-operating to build an industry utility which performs the most commoditised registry tasks? What role can initiatives such as SwiftNet and the ASX’s AQUA Rules for the quotation of ETFs and structured products play in enhancing efficiency? This roundtable discussed all of these questions, with a forum of pivotal players from the custodian, funds management and admin consulting worlds. The discussion aimed to produce a list of actionable steps towards giving Australian investors a better deal on their unit registry.
Participants at the roundtable were: • Warwick Angus, Executive Director – Group Business Development & Fund Services, Computershare • Michael Bailey, Editor, Investment & Technology Magazine • Chris Bain, Business Development Manager, Computershare • Chris Brideson, Partner – Business Performance Services, KPMG • Greg Bright, Director, Conexus Financial • Jeremy Don, Chief Operating Officer, Deutsche Asset Management Australia • Bryan Gray, Head of Sales & Client Management, JPMorgan Worldwide Securities Services • Mark Pratt, Chief Operating Officer, Australian Unity Investments • James Savage, Head Of Sales & Marketing, Tribeca Partners • Kay Sprague, Asia Pacific Head of Client Solutioning, Citi Global Transaction Services • Sam Watkins, Head of Structured Product Sales Australia, Credit Suisse • Tim Worner, Principal, Morse Consulting Warwick Angus: If you go through the insurance markets, the banking markets, they’ve all had stages where there’ve been logical evolutionary paths that they should take, and there’s a tipping point that creates that.