“Investors are on the lookout for opportunities. Many have started to invest on beneficiaries of the new normal, ’’ Manulife Investment Management (M) Bhd head of retail wealth distribution Ng Chze How (pic) said. A unit trust agent is a person you would have encountered at least once. There are hundreds of them in the country trying to tell you about the potential returns you can make when investing in unit trust (UT) only if you are willing to part with an initial sum of money. Of course there are some sad cases of people losing money from investing in UT. But equally many have gained from such investments. The unit trust industry in Malaysia dates back to 1959. In the 1980s, the ever popular Skim Amanah Saham Nasional was launched with 11 funds and the response has been overwhelming ever since. There are over 687 UT funds now that are managed by over 80 fund managers from about 40 registered houses. Not all unit trust companies have performed well and the challenge is picking the right fund to accumulate wealth. “Investors are on the lookout for opportunities. Many have started to invest on beneficiaries of the new normal, ’’ Manulife Investment Management (M) Bhd head of retail wealth distribution Ng Chze How (pic) said.He added that “overall, the higher demand for unit trust investment is also driven by the low interest rate environment and the confidence in stimulus packages by policy makers locally and globally.” Even before deciding on the product type, you need to know your risk appetite or risk tolerance level, investment objectives and investment horizon, said RHB Group Asset Management. “One should not adopt a ‘speculative’ stance in UT investing as UT is for a longer term horizon, ’’ RHB added. But with over 600 funds, how do you find one that suits your needs? Performance is an important measure. Ng said performance is measured by its total returns through cumulative total returns or average annual total return. But fund volatility is also a key factor and there are different measures of volatility. In Malaysia, the Lipper Analytics is usually included in the fund factsheet to indicate the fund’s overall volatility which is represented by a value, and can be low, moderate or high. “These levels indicate the risks the fund manager is taking to deliver performance or alpha. Using industry ratings (such as the Morningstar ratings) as a guide is also a way to identify the performing funds.’’ Ng said. Fund managers will structure funds to allow investors to access different asset classes, geographies, industries, values, and even to capitalise on emerging or current trends, he added. It is all about how much risk one can take. Ng said different funds offer investors access to assets across the risk spectrum (from low to high), depending on the purpose of the fund. In terms of structure or strategy, which basically means how the fund is managed –they can be in the form of a single fund, feeder fund, fund of funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) – which are exchange listed unit trust funds, active or passively managed funds or funds that track specific indices. “It is important to understand if your fund is actively or passively managed, ’’ Ng said. Often, past performance is used as an indication to sell the funds. Is that a right move? RHB said past performance can be a helpful metric but it does not reflect future outcomes as markets are dynamic and there are many moving parts that will have an impact on the ongoing and future fund performance.In terms of returns, there is no real guarantee. But when the price of the units goes above the price you paid there is a capital gain. Some funds do pay dividends too. “Generally, low levels of risk are associated with low potential returns whereas high levels of risk are associated with higher potential returns, ’’ said Ng. According to RHB, low risk funds are typically in cash management, and money market funds. Medium risk would be in balanced funds or fixed income funds. High risk would be in equity funds and alternative funds. “The composition of the underlying investment would impact the final risk rating of the fund, for example, the MGS (Malaysian Government Securities) only would lower the risk of a fixed income fund versus a fixed income fund invested in junk bonds, ’’ said RHB.Investment cost For all investment transactions, there is a fee, and it applies to UT too. Regardless of how your fund performs, fees are applicable and it can reduce your returns from your UT. According to Ng, the net asset value (NAV) is the market value of assets in the unit trust. A growing NAV will indicate your capital appreciation. As fees charged to participate in a fund vary, and there are different types of fees. Investors need to find out the structure before investing in UT. Timing RHB said investors need to be mindful of the type of fund versus investment objectives and risk appetite as well as the horizon of investment, besides the size of investable funds. Also take into consideration the reputation of the fund house, investment process, track record and experience of the investment team. In addition, people should also consider the market cycle at the point of investment. Essentially, it is about understanding your risk and returns and reviewing your portfolio periodically. Another advice is to maintain a close relationship with your fund manager and try not to chase the market. Being grounded in the fundamentals and clear about your goals will ensure that you will be able to achieve your short or long-term investment targets.
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