The Australian funds management industry has once again been judged mediocre by research house Morningstar in its latest global comparison study.
Weighed down by poor disclosure and high investment taxes, Australia could only muster a C in the Morningstar Global Fund Investor Experience 2011, the same rating it scored in the 2009 report.
“Remarkably, mutual funds in Australia are not required to publish a full and complete disclosure of the portfolio holdings. In an otherwise sophisticated fund market, Australia’s refusal to even approach global best practices on disclosure is surprising—and unacceptable,” the report says. “Worse, Australian funds rarely provide this information to investors voluntarily.”
Tim Murphy, co-head of research Morningstar Australasia, said while Australia’s funds management industry could not control tax rates it could “substantially” lift its score in the future by improving disclosure of portfolio holdings and other information.
“For instance, funds aren’t even required to disclose who the portfolio manager is. Imagine if a company didn’t even say who its CEO was,” Murphy said. “There’s been all sorts of studies looking at shareholder rights but this is the first to look at the rights of fund investors.”
Despite its poor overall ranking Murphy said Australia had improved in the fees and expenses category, rating an A compared to a B in the previous study.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on fees, with the industry fund campaign for example,” he said. “Just look at the increased proportion of flows into low-cost funds such as ETFs and index funds. People are paying attention to fees and we don’t see that changing any time soon.”
A-students the US and Thailand scored highest in the Morningstar study while New Zealand, the only other country of the 22 surveyed by the researcher not to have mandatory disclosure of portfolio holdings, was awarded the lowest D- ranking.