Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do I trust EPF?

YES. I still have a substantial part of my savings in EPF and I am actually letting it stay put there. Some readers have actually asked me on unit trusts and they are thinking of parking some of their EPF's money in unit trusts. Seriously, I have not much comment on this as I myself have not done detailed research on this - but one thing I have read is that there are not many funds that outperform the market consistently.

Picking a fund is like picking a stock - one will need to identify the investment mindset and objectives of the fund manager - how much they have consistently beat the market and can they still do it in future. That's a hard call. Then the fees. Are you willing to pay for the additional fees while in EPF, you are basically not paying the extras.

Back to EPF - EPF is a the largest fund among all the unit trusts. In fact it is not a unit trusts. It is a provident fund - i.e. taking care of our old age.The recent attack by some opposition members may not be that wrong as it has invested into FGV and it looks like it was supporting the share price. (However, statement like EPF has lost few hundreds of millions investing in FGV is a misguided statement as there are losses and there are gains in investments - and anyway it is losses in the books, unrealised) I in fact have mentioned of my unhappiness with regards to the investment, but one must know that EPF is a very large fund. That is a very small portion of its investment. Unlike me, where I can be very picky with my investment decisions, EPF can still be picky but if it is too picky, it has less places to invests in. (But that doesn't mean it can simply invest anywhere, which to a large extent it is not so.)

Investment assets of EPF have been growing very fast
As at 31 Dec 2011, it has investment assets of RM469.2 billion. Who in Malaysia can beat that? While the fund size looks appetizing for a fund manager, I would imagine it is actually very tough to manage a fund this size. Every month, it probably has a whopping net size growth of about RM1.2 to RM1.5 billion after withdrawal.

If I am the fund manager of a fund this size, I will have problem allocating these assets. Hence, managing it and have a decent return of 6% for example last year is quite a good feat.

The only good thing for EPF's fund managers are that they do not have to source for contributions (i.e. growing their fund size) unlike the other unit trusts fund managers which have to worry over fund size growth vs withdrawal, anytime. That is a great advantage that EPF has - where it can actually figure out the future withdrawals while other open-ended unit trusts can't really do that. As a result, unit trusts have to park a larger portion of their money in more liquid assets.

 Where does EPF puts its money (or rather our money)?

See below.
Picked from the Chairman's statement in Annual Report 2011
The pressure of low interest rates environment as well as reducing government loans relative to the growth of the fund size has caused EPF to look elsewhere (mainly equity) to park its money. Fortunate and unfortunately to me it has parked most of the funds in Malaysian equity market. The thing about putting money in the Malaysian market is that it has overwhelmed the market with EPF's funds and an elephant can't dance very well. Parking its funds in the Malaysian market means that the companies that it invests in have to perform. Luckily for us - companies like CIMB, Maybank, Public Bank, Digi, Maxis etc performed over the last decade. EPF cannot afford non-performance from these companies that it invests in as it will have problem pulling out from its current holdings as if it pulls out, the share price of the companies will be largely affected. One example you can see is Malaysia Airlines where EPF is slowly reducing its stake but still it is stuck with substantial percentage.

2001 vs 2011 allocation from EPF's investments

From above, you can see that the contribution from equity is now constituting a substantial percentage of its income. While it still needs to put some of the money in MGS and money market, this obviously is reducing.

While it is now putting a lot of money in equity, the return that it has gotten is not too shabby against many of the funds.

Last year itself, return from equity investment was 11% which was even better than many of the funds. Now, with this kind of investment returns, I do not really have to think of diversifying my investments into unit trusts.

You can say that the large holdings EPF has in a lot of the companies it invests into, it may be able to largely control the share price - well, that's another argument but most unit trusts have to put their money in the Malaysian bond or equity market anyway.

And the ones that went overseas i.e. South East Asia or East Asia actually largely underperformed in the last few years.

Source: EPF

Based on the chart on the left, many more people have taken their money out from EPF recently. Great for the funds industry as it needs that. Obviously, I was approached as well but I am staying put with EPF. If any of the fund can outperform EPF by say 1% - 2%, or maybe even slightly more, I will just say - forget about the trouble.

I generally think that EPF has done quite well for the larger portion of the public which consists of more than 13 million contributors although once a while we may make some comments like the ones with FGV.

NO, I am not being paid by EPF to write this article, but I think the guys need some pat on their back to do what they have done. But of course, if I am given the opportunity to withdraw the money for me to invests myself, I would gladly welcome it.


Gark said...

The biggest questions is .. is the reported income, holdings etc correct? How about interest free loans to GLC and some botched investment such as the tuna fishing vnbture at Langkawi?

EPF refused to released the audited report... could turn out to be the biggest ponzi scheme there is.

We will never know, EPF as the people's money should be much more transparent.

Unknown said...

Felicity... it is possible to withdraw money from your EPF Account 1, to invest in equities. I've been doing it since last year. The fees are lower compared to withdrawal for unit trust. I find it very rewarding as I have control of my own hard earned money.

And thanks to your blog, I've learned a few things in identifying good stocks with solid fundamentals to invest in.

Keep up the good job!

Shane See said...

I've heard of withdrawing money from EPF to invest in equities as well. I agree that if you're good in stocks, that's one way to get more "bullets" to invest in.

While some are good in stock investing, the majority of working adults have little or no knowledge about the fundamentals of share investment. Yet, sweet promises of huge returns from agents promoting this scheme might have blinded investors of the risk they would faced when investing in equities?

Or could there be a sure profit method in stock investing that I know not of?