Why Allan Grey’s Tax-Free Balanced fund outperformed its Balanced fund

When tax-free financial savings accounts (TFSAs) had been launched in South Africa in 2015, the Nationwide Treasury dominated that no efficiency charges may very well be utilized.

Most notably, this affected South Africa’s largest unit belief.

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The Allan Grey Balanced fund has all the time charged a efficiency payment. With the intention to make it accessible to traders in a TFSA, Allan Grey was subsequently required to launch a separate fund – the Allan Grey Tax-Free Balanced fund – which fees a flat administration payment.

Efficiency payment philosophy
The argument in favour of efficiency charges is that they align the pursuits of the fund supervisor and shoppers. If the fund does nicely, each the supervisor and the consumer are rewarded. If it does poorly, they share the ache.

You will need to be clear that this isn’t the case with all performance-fee constructions in South Africa. The truth is, most are asymmetrical, in that the fund supervisor earns a flat fixed-base payment no matter efficiency. That implies that they really feel no loss when the fund underperforms, however assist themselves to a share of the upside.

Allan Grey, against this, employs symmetrical performance-fee constructions. The supervisor will earn a better payment when the fund outperforms its benchmark and a decrease payment when it underperforms.

Efficiency evaluation
The launch of the Allan Grey Tax-Free Balanced fund has, nevertheless, allowed traders to check the efficiency of this fund, which doesn’t cost a efficiency payment, with that of the unique Allan Grey Balanced fund to see which finally delivers a greater final result.

The Allan Grey Tax-Free Balanced fund was launched in February 2016. Calculated month-to-month, there have been 47 rolling one-year durations since that time. Analysing the relative efficiency of the 2 funds over these durations is revealing.

For 33 of them, the Allan Grey Tax-Free Balanced fund has outperformed the Allan Grey Balanced fund.

For six of those rolling one-one durations, the funds carried out on par with one another.

In solely eight situations did the Allan Grey Balanced fund outperform.

In different phrases, the model of the fund charging a flat payment outperformed 70% of the time. It solely underperformed 17% of the time.

A easy point-to-point efficiency evaluation is equally conclusive: Because the begin of March 2016 (its first full month in existence), the Allan Grey Tax-Free Balanced fund has returned 5.zero% every year. The Allan Grey Balanced fund has returned four.6% every year over the identical interval.


This would seem to supply conclusive proof that efficiency charges don’t result in higher outcomes.

Nonetheless, Earl van Zyl, head of product improvement at Allan Grey, advised Citywire that you will need to notice that whereas the 2 funds are comparable, they aren’t precisely the identical.

“Asset allocation between the 2 funds will be, and has been meaningfully totally different,” mentioned Van Zyl. “It may differ as a lot as just a few % inside an asset class. That has made a distinction to the gross returns of the 2 funds, which has been sufficient to make a distinction to the web return to shoppers.

“As a easy instance, on the finish of November 2020, the balanced fund had returned three.zero% for the 12 months with a one-year TIC [total investment charge] of zero.88%, which, very roughly, is a gross return of three.88%. The tax-free balanced fund returned three.four% with TIC of 1.61%, for a gross return of 5.01%.

“It is a very tough approximation, nevertheless it illustrates that the variations in outcomes between these funds are considerably about each the variations in asset allocation and payment construction.”

The query that argument raises, nevertheless, is why the asset allocation variations would constantly favour one fund over the opposite when they’re managed by the identical staff.

A potential rationalization that Van Zyl supplied is that fund flows have affected the power of the portfolio managers to precisely match how the funds are positioned over time.

“One of many huge variations within the funds is that shoppers have been withdrawing from the Balanced fund over the previous few years on a web foundation, however have been contributing to the Tax-Free Balanced fund,” mentioned Van Zyl. “The distinction in flows and the timing and sizes of flows implies that the portfolio managers can’t all the time match the asset allocation of every fund precisely the place they’re shopping for and promoting securities.”

Nonetheless, traders ought to ask whether or not it’s telling that the fixed-fee fund has constantly outperformed.

If efficiency charges are, finally, meant to result in higher outcomes for shoppers, why has this not performed out in observe with these two portfolios?

Van Zyl mentioned that you will need to notice that, over the previous few years, traders have truly paid a decrease payment within the Balanced fund than within the Tax-Free Balanced fund. The three-year TIC on the previous is 1.34%, in comparison with 1.67% on the Tax-Free Balanced fund. Over the previous 12 months, it’s zero.88% in comparison with 1.61%

This, he mentioned, is proof that efficiency charges are working in the best way they’re meant to.

“Our argument is that efficiency charges align the payment that’s charged within the fund with the efficiency of the fund,” mentioned Van Zyl. “That’s what you see. The efficiency of the Balanced fund has gone down within the final 12 months, and the payment has come down. Whereas the payment within the Tax-Free Balanced fund has remained flat.

“We’d not argue that the Balanced fund will all the time outperform as a result of it fees a efficiency payment. We’re charging a efficiency payment as a result of the consumer payment expertise will fluctuate with the efficiency generated relative to the benchmark. That ought to encourage shoppers to remain invested in durations of decrease or beneath efficiency.”

Patrick Cairns is South Africa Editor at Citywire, which supplies perception and knowledge for skilled traders globally.

This text was first printed on Citywire South Africa here, and republished with permission.