One of the banes of mutual funds in Nigeria is the lack of proper reporting. In some cases, the reports are either not available at all, or lacking in timeliness. Most importantly, when available, the reports lack uniformity. This lack of uniformity makes it difficult for investors to compare among mutual funds.
Why Mutual fund reports are important: The importance of timely and standardized mutual fund reporting to investors cannot be overemphasized. Mutual fund reports are a means by which fund managers provide periodic information to their investors. Such reports act as a vehicle by which financial and other relevant information is provided or communicated to shareholders. The reports allow investors the ability to make better-informed investment decisions. It allows investors to compare among funds prior to and/or during investing.
What should be disclosed; Because there are many information relating to mutual funds, not all of them call for disclosure but the most important ones should be disclosed with respect to each fund in a way that makes it easy for investors to find and understand. Here are the important things that should be disclosed in a standardized form:
Fund Fees: One important consideration for a mutual fund investor is the expenses that he or she has to bear by investing in a mutual fund. Mutual funds typically disclose information about their fees in their prospectus; however, it is important that those fees also be disclosed in the monthly reports and fact sheets to remind and keep investors abreast of the fees. Some funds do this, as at the moment, but many do not either issue fact sheets or do not disclose fees in them.
Portfolio Position Holdings: Mutual funds invest in other securities and investors should be made to know what their funds are invested in. Unfortunately, most mutual funds in Nigeria do not disclose this information. At best, they show the industry or sector classifications of what they invest in. Though it may not be easy to disclose all the holdings, especially with a large fund, but fund managers should be able and required to disclose any investment that is more than a given percentage of the fund’s net asset value, like 10%. At the barest minimum, fund managers should be required to disclose the largest 10 investments in the fund.
Disclosure of position holdings helps investors to know the extent to which they are exposed to concentration risk, the extent of diversification in a fund, and the extent of correlation between funds, for investors investing in multiple funds. In other words, disclosing position holdings will enable investors to know the extent to which their funds overlap and also form the basis of making informed asset allocation decisions. A disclosure of position holdings will help investors know when a fund manager engages in style drift, an indication of when a fund manager deviates from the investment objectives of a fund. When fund managers disclose position holdings, it places investors in a better position to evaluate the fund’s risk profile and investment strategy.
Fund Performance: Even though past performance does not guarantee future performance, fund managers should disclose fund performance in a consistent and similar manner in their reports. Such reports should show month to date, quarter to date as well as year to date returns. It should even show inception to date returns, and if possible, shown as a cluster of monthly returns. This will help investors know whether a fund manager is consistent in his/her performance or if the fund performs well in up markets or in down markets or in both.
Structure of Reports: It is not only the information that requires disclosure that should be standardized, the structure of the reports should be as well. A situation where one fund shows the performance of the fund on the first page and another fund hides it as a fine print, does not make comparison easy. Therefore, funds should locate similar information on the same spot across fund reports so that investors can easily find them in one report based on their experience with another report.
Conclusion: Mutual funds in Nigeria have come a long way and they have come to stay. It is time for the regulators of mutual funds to come up with guidelines on reporting standards and frequencies in order to make understanding and using of such reports easy for investors. By so doing, there will be a level playing field for all funds. As it stands, the regulation of mutual funds in Nigeria seem to be lacking in certain areas. Such standardization, while increasing investors’ understanding will also help in getting more prospective investors interested in the mutual fund industry, and invariably lead to the growth of the industry.