The current challenge facing many long-term investors is to simply survive the shorter-term market disappointments to benefit from the return premium offered by growth assets over the longer term.
For many investors, the last five years have been traumatic. Domestic woes and instability in global markets have resulted in muted returns across almost all asset classes.
Figure 1: A range of factors have led to disappointing returns
Source: Investec Asset Management.
While global assets have outperformed local assets, this outperformance is mostly due to rand depreciation, as evidenced in Figure 2. Over the five years to the end of October 2019, the rand has depreciated by as much as 7% per annum against the US dollar, thereby making up the bulk of the rand return for global cash and bonds and more than half the return for global equities.
Figure 2: Five-year annualised returns in rands to 31 October 2019
Market returns have proven a significant challenge for people drawing an income
A lack of retirement savings and depressed investment markets have left many pensioners anxious about the future. Jaco van Tonder, Advisor Services Director, has explored the challenges facing retirees as part of Investec Asset Management’s in-house research study into “How investors should approach living annuities”.1
Jaco makes the point that even though the principle of “beating inflation requires exposure to equities” is widely accepted by investment professionals, it is easy to overlook this principle in situations where an investment portfolio is required to produce an income. Jaco also makes two conclusions that are relevant to this article:
- Living annuities require meaningful equity exposures to enable the annuity’s income levels to keep pace with inflation.
- Fixed income portfolios are unable, on their own, to produce the returns required to keep pace with inflation.
Investing in the wrong asset class is costly in the long term
Despondent investors have increasingly sought refuge in fixed income investments, thereby potentially compromising their long-term investment goals. This behavior is even true for conservative investors who had previously invested in multi-asset low equity funds (i.e. lower risk funds that target inflation beating returns over rolling three-plus years), such as the Investec Cautious Managed Fund.
For long-term investors, however, investing in the wrong asset class can prove costly. The South African Savings Institute (SASI) makes the point that while in the short-term cash and bonds may be somewhat safer, in the longer term they provide less protection against inflation and therefore are unlikely to maintain real buying power.
1 – A new approach to living annuities: https://www.investecassetmanagement.com/south-africa/professional-investor/en-za/insight/living-annuity-an-active-solution/.
Furthermore, tax considerations generally accentuate this outcome. SASI’s analysis suggests that over time, the four domestic asset classes are likely to produce the following real (after inflation) returns in the long run:2
• Cash: 0 to 1%
• Bonds: 1 to 3%
• Property: 2 to 4%
• Equities: 7 to 9%
It is also important to note that with inflation well within the target range and developed market interest rates at all-time lows, interest rates in South Africa are likely to trend downwards. The attractive real returns offered by money market and other flexible fixed income investments are therefore likely to come under pressure as a result. At the same time, we are now far more optimistic on the prospects for growth assets to deliver inflation-beating returns in the future.
Targeting consistent real returns to conservatively grow your savings
We therefore continue to argue that conservative investors should reconsider the important role that multi-asset low equity funds can play in their portfolio. These funds offer a bias to income-generating assets, while maintaining a growth element.
The Investec Cautious Managed Fund, for example, is suitable for conservative investors saving for retirement and for retirees drawing an income from a living annuity. The fund is well-positioned to meet these needs, thanks to its broad investment opportunity set that allows for investment in assets that offer growth and income, and a strong emphasis on capital preservation. As a result, the Investec Cautious Managed Fund has delivered a positive real return over rolling three-year periods 80% of the time, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Growing investor capital in real terms
A key strength of the fund is its ability to exploit the changing investment opportunity set. Historically, multi-asset funds have looked to South African equities as the primary driver of real returns and offshore bonds as the uncorrelated defensive asset. However, we believe that offshore equities are now the best opportunity for growth, with South African bonds offering attractive risk-adjusted returns, as well as helping to counterbalance risk in the portfolio.
This view is reflected in the next two charts. Figure 4 shows the changing asset allocation of the Investec Cautious Managed Fund over time, while Figure 5 depicts the Quality capability’s range of expected returns over the next five years from the different assets held in our Quality portfolios, including the Investec Cautious Managed Fund.
Figure 4: Investec Cautious Managed Fund asset allocation since 2006
Figure 5: Range of expected annualised returns for current Investec Cautious Managed Fund holdings (in rands)
In today’s uncertain investment environment, asset allocation and stock selection are key. Conservative investors should consider entrusting a portion of their investments to the experienced, well-resourced and globally integrated portfolio management team who manages the Investec Cautious Managed Fund. To quote, Duane Cable, Investec Cautious Managed Fund Portfolio Manager: “In the volatile world in which we find ourselves, it has become increasingly apparent that one needs to have a global perspective to navigate the choppy waters of investment markets”.
All information provided is product related and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. We are not acting and do not purport to act in any way as an advisor or in a fiduciary capacity. No one should act upon such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of a particular situation. This is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any particular security. Collective investment scheme funds are generally medium to long term investments and the manager, Investec Fund Managers SA (RF) (Pty) Ltd, gives no guarantee with respect to the capital or the return of the fund. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. The value of participatory interests (units) may go down as well as up. Funds are traded at ruling prices and can engage in borrowing and scrip lending. The fund may borrow up to 10% of its market value to bridge insufficient liquidity. A schedule of charges, fees and advisor fees is available on request from the manager which is registered under the Collective Investment Schemes Control Act. Additional advisor fees may be paid and if so, are subject to the relevant FAIS disclosure requirements. Performance shown is that of the fund and individual investor performance may differ as a result of initial fees, actual investment date, date of any subsequent reinvestment and any dividend withholding tax. There are different fee classes of units on the fund and the information presented is for the most expensive class. Fluctuations or movements in exchange rates may cause the value of underlying international investments to go up or down. Where the fund invests in the units of foreign collective investment schemes, these may levy additional charges which are included in the relevant Total Expense Ratio (TER). A higher TER does not necessarily imply a poor return, nor does a low TER imply a good return. The ratio does not include transaction costs. The TER of the Investec Cautious Managed Fund (A) class is 1.73%. The current TER cannot be regarded as an indication of the future TERs. Additional information on the funds may be obtained, free of charge, at www.investecassetmanagement.com. The Manager, PO Box 1655, Cape Town, 8000, Tel: 0860 500 100. The scheme trustee is FirstRand Bank Limited, PO Box 7713, Johannesburg, 2000, Tel: (011) 282 1808. Investec Asset Management (Pty) Ltd (“Investec”) is an authorised financial services provider and a member of the Association for Savings and Investment SA (ASISA). This document is the copyright of Investec and its contents may not be re-used without Investec’s prior permission. Investec Asset Management (Pty) Ltd is an authorised financial services provider. Issued, December 2019.