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SMSFs allocating to managed funds and global

Three recent reports on asset allocation confirm a move by SMSFs and other investors into global equities at the expense of Australian companies. It is no doubt driven by the better performance of the S&P500 versus the S&P/ASX300, the surge in technology opportunities offshore and the struggles of previous favourites, the banks and Telstra.

The official statistics on the asset allocation of SMSFs as recorded by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) from tax returns are flawed, as we have written about several times. Other data sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and market participants provide a more complete picture.

The managed fund industry

The latest ABS data for 31 March 2018 shows the Australian managed fund industry held $3.4 trillion, up $15 billion in the quarter. So much for the claims this is a struggling industry. The strongest increase by investment type was overseas assets, a rise of $21 billion, as shown below. Domestic shares fell by $18 billion.

Source: 5565.0 ABS Managed Funds, Australia, March 2018

SMSF investments move to managed funds

The just-released 2018 Vanguard/Investment Trends Self-Managed Super Fund Reports show a time series since 2012 in investment patterns. The most obvious movement is the growth of managed investments, which include ETFs and LICs, at the expense of direct shares. While SMSF trustees are making their own investment decisions, this should not be confused with making their own stock selections. The share of managed investments has doubled from 11% to 22% in six years. The latest BetaShares Australian ETF Review shows inflows into international equities of $273 million in May 2018, with this asset class first for inflows in every month of 2018 so far.

Source: Vanguard/Investment Trends Self-Managed Super Fund Reports, June 2018

SMSF asset allocation

This week, SuperConcepts also released its latest Investment Patterns Survey for March 2018. This is far more up-to-date than the ATO data because it uses SMSF data from funds administered by SuperConcepts, rather than relying on the much-delayed lodgement of tax returns.

The data needs the qualification that SuperConcepts is part of AMP and has a higher proportion of advised clients than most SMSF administrators, and advisers tend to use the functionality of platforms and managed funds. Nevertheless, the change in asset allocation also shows a greater use of international equities over time, up from 12.9% to 14.2% in a year.

A further break-up of the international shares component over the last year shows the steady rise of ETFs and managed funds, and a small rise in SMSFs going directly into foreign stock exchanges.

SMSF international shares components

The balanced options of institutional superannuation funds have long allocated around 20% of their portfolios to global equities, and SMSFs have traditionally lagged far behind. In the last five years, SMSFs have started to catch up, and with the Australian index still dominated by some big companies without compelling growth prospects, it's a trend that will continue.


Graham Hand is Managing Editor of Cuffelinks.

SMSF Trustee
June 19, 2018

It would be good to see the ranges for these, if they were available. I'm with Super Organised so my allocation can be validly compared with their data. But my allocation is quite different, so I'd love to see if I'm at the extreme of any ranges.

For example, I've got 7% in what they call "other". I'd guess that the average of 0.7% is made up of lots of funds with zero and a small proportion with significant allocations. Is 7% a large allocation, the average of the non-zeros, or a whimpish allocation from among those who go into that space?

It's great to see this data and I appreciate your comment about the difference between having an SMSF to pick stocks versus having one to hold the managed funds of your choice. I have less than 10% of my fund in direct shares (and that's been reducing over the last year or two). The vast majority is in 25 different managed funds offered by 20 different fund managers.

Great diversification, competitive fee structure, no one else to blame but me for the results - that's why I'm there.

Peter C
June 18, 2018

For the past few years I have invested in the indexed option of my industry super fund.

The international share component has ranged from 30% to 38% during this period (it is 38% now). The increase is mainly because of the natural growth and not because of a switch.

The benefit for me is, I don't have to think about it and don't start investing overseas after the prices of stocks have already increased, I've been in there for a while.

Also, because I used the indexed option the fees are significantly lower than a regular balanced option.

There is still 30% of the portfolio allocated to cash and fixed interest, so I do have a balance between growth and income assets.


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