Category Archives: Equities

Are Passives really that cheap?

I got really excited recently when I noted the addition of some of the CoreShares funds to the list of funds on one of the LISP platforms that we use…

And then I started doing some quotes to see what the effect the addition the CoreSharesTop50 would have on the fees on the client’s portfolio. I was surprised to see that the EAC of the Top50 fund is just under 1.5% which seemed really odd for a passive fund that claims to have really low fees. So I started investigating…

I started with the fact sheet for the fund which shows an annual fund fee of 0.2% (max) and a TER (total expense ratio) of 0.26% (including the fund fee). The TIC (total expense ratio) shows a figure of 0.43% but there is no mention anywhere of the EAC (effective annual cost) on the fund. So I called the CoreShares Call Centre and was told that I would have to open an account to see this information (which seemed very odd). I called again and was then told to send an email requesting the info, which I did. Still nothing, so I called again and was told it would be sent to me (still waiting).

The next step was to pull the missing information from Morningstar (through a connection in the asset management industry) and it turns out that the TER may well be 0.26% but the transaction costs (according to Morningstar) are around 1.24% so the EAC is actually around 1.5%. So much for cheap passives. I suspect that the high transaction costs might be a function of the fund size but I’m still waiting to hear.

So for now, until we can clarify the cause of the high EAC on the fund, we’ll be staying away from it and until further notice, you be better off (from a fees point of view at least) in an actively managed fund like the Coronation Top20 Fund if you are looking for a concentrated equity portfolio.

It is also absolutely crazy that we have 4 different ways of expressing the fees on a fund -and they are all different:

  • Annual management fund
  • Total expense ratio
  • Total investment charge
  • Effective annual cost

Surely “total” means “everything” and there should be no difference between the Total Expense Ratio, Total Investment Charge and the Effective Annual Cost…little wonder that there is so much distrust in the investment industry!

Cash guarantees?

We have come across many clients recently who are wanting to move their funds into the “bank” following the very poor returns of the past 5 years. Their rationale usually revolves around the fact that at least they would be guaranteed a return of ±7% per annum compared to the dismal returns from the market.

What we have to keep reminding them is that yes, they may well get a “guaranteed return” in the short term, but we can also guarantee them that they will be poorer in the future if they follow this route. Money markets are great for short term use – they are not appropriate for long-term investing. As someone once said to me “If you want to accept cash returns as your worst-case scenario, then you also have to accept cash returns as your best-case scenario”

Perhaps it is pertinent to remind ourselves about a few good old investment principles:

  • Markets move in cycles: they go up and down over time (not necessarily in that order).
  • Nobody knows exactly when this will happen – no one can consistently time the markets.
  • Equity markets (shares) should provide out-performance over the longer term (>10 years) but they are also more volatile over shorter periods.
  • High risk does not necessarily imply a high return (take gambling for instance).
  • Diversification is the prudent way to manage risk. This includes diversification among various asset classes, regions and investment styles.
  • Be mindful of the costs associated with your portfolio – higher costs will generally lead to lower returns over time.

Now is NOT the time to be deviating from your investment plan (unless your personal circumstances have changed). We don’t know which sector will perform best next nor do we know when the rand will weaken further or even if the market has bottomed. We do know, however, on balance of probability (built up over a very long time) that as an asset class, equities will outperform property which will in turn outperform bonds which will outperform cash (after tax). This is a fundamental consequence of the risk/return relationship. In fact, statistics show that SA asset classes have produced the following real returns over time:

Asset class Real return
Cash 0-1%
Bonds 1-3%
Property 2-4%
Equities 7-9%

  Source: Fortune Strategy, Bradley et al (the international experience is similar)

What investors fail to realize is that with the risk/return relationship comes volatility! There are periods (which can extend for a number of years) when the equity markets can be extremely volatile – the way to combat this is to have a well-diversified portfolio with sufficient access to cash (short term funds) so as to allow you to ignore the ups and downs in the short term. “The psychology of the speculator militates strongly against his success. For by relation of cause and effect he is most optimistic when prices are highest and most despondent when they are at the bottom.” Remember you are an investor and not a speculator.

It was Warren Buffett who said “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”. When people start to get greedy then it is time to be fearful and vice versa. From what I am seeing around me, there is too much fear – maybe, just maybe, it is time to start “getting greedy”.

Dont do this at home!

ENT specialists will tell anyone who listens that the only thing that you should ever stick into your ear is your elbow (it’s impossible, just as it is impossible to lick your elbow). And yet a quick trip down the supermarket aisle or peak into just about any bathroom cabinet will show that there is a massive market for ear-buds! Doctors tell us not to use them and yet we still do. We do things that are bad for us, even when we know that they are bad for us.

This got me thinking about share trading – there seems to be no end to the courses and platforms on offer and while the research shows that people don’t make money from share-trading, we still believe that we know better and that we can beat the markets. Perhaps online share-trading platforms are the ear-buds of the financial markets?

It’s time to do the Mickey Blue (again)

I recently watched someone using a leaf blower to clear their pavement. As I watched, it struck me what a pointless exercise it was and it crossed my mind that the leaf blower must be one of the most senseless machines yet invented. Continue reading It’s time to do the Mickey Blue (again)

A case for higher offshore weighting within a living annuity?

There is this strange phenomenon in SA called Regulation 28 that is applied to retirement funds. It stipulates that retirement fund members may not have more than 75% of their funds in equities and no more than 25% of the fund invested offshore Continue reading A case for higher offshore weighting within a living annuity?

UT or share portfolio

There are many with strong opinions about the merits of a share portfolio versus a unit trust portfolio. Here’s another one (strong opinion) in favour of a unit trust portfolio.
Continue reading UT or share portfolio

The ultimate savings & investment vehicle!

Today I got a call from a journalist asking a few questions about what a beginner investor should do if they want to start investing. I think that they were looking for “tips and tricks” about which funds or shares to choose. Here was my reply.  Continue reading The ultimate savings & investment vehicle!


On a recent car trip, my daughter insisted on playing some of her music – 2 of the songs on the “hit list” were “Bear necessities” from the Jungle Book and “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King. When the music finished there was a follow up question from her to me – “what’s your favourite Disney movie, dad?”

I thought about it and decided that “Disney” could now include Pixar and went with “The Incredibles” followed by “Monsters Inc”. And then I asked her. “Jungle book, followed by Lion King” was her reply. Her younger brother concurred.
As I pondered this I realised I had just witnessed a case of what behavioural economists call “anchoring” in practice. In short, anchoring can be described as the human behaviour trait that gives more importance to recent history than to things that happened long ago. This tends to skew our view of things…we all do it and we all need to be aware of it, especially when it comes to our money. For a more precise definition read the bit below by the people that first described the concept, Nobel prize winners Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.


“Anchoring is a particular form of priming effect whereby initial exposure to a number serves as a reference point and influences subsequent judgments about value. The process usually occurs without our awareness (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), and sometimes it occurs when people’s price perceptions are influenced by reference points. For example, the price of the first house shown to us by an estate agent may serve as an anchor and influence perceptions of houses subsequently presented to us (as relatively cheap or expensive). These effects have also been shown in consumer behavior whereby not only explicit slogans to buy more (e.g. “Buy 18 Snickers bars for your freezer”), but also purchase quantity limits (e.g. “limit of 12 per person”) or ‘expansion anchors’ (e.g. “101 uses!”) can increase purchase quantities (Wansink, Kent, & Hoch, 1998).”


One page financial plan

I have just finished reading this excellent book by Carl Richards…

The One-page Financial Plan – some notes from the book:

“The best financial plan has nothing to do with what the markets are doing, nothing to do with what your real estate agent is telling you, nothing to do with the hot stock your brother-in-law told you about. It has everything to do with what’s most important to you.” p7

• know why you are planning
• time spent + money spent = what you really value.
• it’s about making best guesses (and not obsessing about getting things exactly right) – a lot can happen between now and the future!
• It’s about giving yourself more time!
• Things you have to invest: money, time, energy and skills – all NB to consider
• Most people don’t have a clear understanding of their current financial situation. Budgeting = awareness
• budgeting & flossing: both insanely important, super simple, & for many of us, nonstarters
• save as much as you can
• spend less than you earn
• don’t lose money
• life insurance plays 1 role: it covers economic loss. It is an expense, not an investment…it’s about the risks you are ok with and the risks you’d like someone else to take care of. Economic need, not emotional loss.
• Paying off debt = investment with guaranteed return
• Speculation and intuition are not investment strategies
• Invest and then behave for a really long time