Standardised disclosure system urged

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 5:27am

A new study by the CFA Institute has concluded that harmonised standards for reporting the performance of investment funds are needed to enhance investor protection and rebuild trust in the retail fund market.

"With increased activity in cross-border selling of unit trusts, there is a need to standardise regulatory disclosures related to periodic fund reporting," Lee Kha Loon, senior policy director at the institute, said.

The report covers six markets - Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore - and includes opinions from workers in relevant industries.

With different countries practising different standards of reporting, the report pinpoints quarterly reporting as a key focus as investors feel information is needed on a regular basis.

When asked about the potential burden of time and cost entailed in producing information every quarter, Lee said: "The cost of producing the required information is not great. Information is easily accessed and can be disclosed through websites."

Another key recommendation of the report is clarity in fund holdings and asset allocation as investors lack sufficient information on how their portfolios are being managed.

"Full disclosure should be at a minimum of 50 to 75 per cent. Currently, only 20 to 30 per cent is being disclosed by some countries," Lee said.

An example of the need for clarity, Lee said, was disclosures by managers who invested Mandatory Provident Fund contributions in Hong Kong.

"Labelling on whether the funds are capital-guaranteed or returns-guaranteed should be incorporated," he said. "There should also be consistency in the labelling of these funds."

Lee also said the compulsory retirement scheme had left Hongkongers with little flexibility in their choice of investments as they were required to invest in mutual funds. He said those in Singapore and Malaysia allowed their citizens to choose their own portfolios.

The CFA Institute plans to present its research to regulators in the region.

"This is a preliminary study of the region. We want to gather information on the best practices of countries in Asia-Pacific and will proceed depending on the level of interest in the industry," Lee said.