Unit trusts do better than life assurance

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

The South African unit trust industry grew by a record R58,2 billion to R546billion last year, replacing the life assurance industry as the preferred vehicle for long-term saving.

Dale Lippstreu of Maitland's fund services division says this represents nothing less than a tectonic shift in saving patterns, considering the pre-eminent position once enjoyed by life assurance savings products.

Until recently the sale of market-linked retirement fund products such as retirement annuities, preservation funds and living annuities were the sole preserve of linked investment service providers operating under life licences.

But unit trust management companies are rapidly moving into this space.

Lippstreu says they have their own life licences and are packaging their own underlying unit trusts to service the discretionary investment market.

"Unit trusts are broadly regarded as the most cost-effective, direct and efficient means to access professional asset management," Lippstreu says.

Because the industry has worked hard at transparency, he says, practices that held potential prejudice to investors have been eliminated and standards that ensure full disclosure of costs have been advanced.

"Contrast this with the undisclosed or poorly disclosed practices in the life assurance industry and the consequences that have been brought on it as a result," he says.

Maitland's fund services division provides administration and infrastructure services to the fund management industry.

Its investor services platform has recently been expanded to offer administration to management companies offering their own retirement fund products.

Russel Julie, head of investor services at Maitland, says the platform caters for endowments, retirement annuities, pension and preservation funds and living annuities.

He says the reporting function is crucial, allowing investors to receive regular reports indicating the status of their investments in a totally transparent manner.