This is an an article for Malaysians who are looking for:
- A better alternative to Unit Trusts and Mutual Funds
- Exposure to equities
- An easy way to invest without having to do too much research
- Long term, low fee investing
If you do not have the know-how and/or time to do the research and valuations on individual stocks and equities. Fret not, there are a few options out there for us Malaysians. Some better than others.
1. Trade Yourself
First off, I’ll have to have this option here. This is what I do, I invest and trade stocks myself. I pay no annual fees or management fees. I only pay brokerage which comes to about RM8 or 0.1% whichever is higher.
This option is available to everyone. If you have the time to do some research and think logically, anyone can do it. To start investing in stocks, you can head hERE for a guide.
Exchange-Traded Funds would be my choice and recommendation if you don’t want to trade and invest in stocks on your own. Depending on the ETFs you invest in, you can be exposed to all sorts of asset classes in different sectors and regions. There are tons of ETFs around the world, so take your pick.
Specifically, I’d recommend passive index funds if you’re looking to invest long term. Most noteworthy ones can be found in the US ie. the Vanguard S&P 500 index fund. You can learn how to invest in US stocks hERE.
Unbeknownst to many, we have a few ETFs here in Malaysia. The closest we can get to an S&P 500 fund is the MyETF Dow Jones US, which provides you the exposure to the US equity market. Somewhat similar to the S&P 500 ETF that mainly indicates the performance of the US market, there is FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI ETF (FBMKLCI-EA). Where the S&P 500 fund tracks 500 shares, ours tracks only the top 30 largest companies in Malaysia.
3. Unit Trusts and Mutual Funds
not least, mutual funds & unit trusts. I don’t like unit trusts because of one huge factor – FEES.
If you take the time to dig in and do some research, you’ll find that most of them don’t even beat the market/index’s returns over the long term. So why pay more fees?
Malaysians are still stuck in the unit trust era with the older generation and I think younger more financially literate investors are starting to realize that there are other options out there.
I’ll have some facts and figures below to demonstrate.
The Actual and Long-term Cost of Fees
Unit Trusts vs ETFs
Firstly, I’ll be using unit trusts and mutual funds interchangeably. For the purpose of this article, they are one and the same.
Secondly, we’ll be mainly comparing ETFs vs Unit Trusts here. I do this because I want to draw more attention to our local ETFs in Malaysia which are the closest and better options compared to unit trusts. I want to get Malaysians off high fees and unit trusts.
For those that don’t know what unit trusts / mutual funds are, let me explain it simply. Mutual funds are managed by a fund manager(s) who claim to be able to procure superior returns for investors. You put your money in a mutual fund and they invest it for you, for a fee. That’s it.
The only and most logical question an intelligent investor would ask is:
- Can they beat the market’s rate of return?
The short answer? No.
Unit trust holders would argue that there are funds out there that beat the market. Yes, there are but there aren’t many. The fact is that the global majority of actively managed funds just don’t beat the market. And the small number that does, they may be taking higher risks. Sometimes, it’s even down to pure luck.
The next factor would be the fund managers themselves. Funds are only as good as the fund managers that run them. Which is a problem itself because fund managers come and go. A good fund manager does not stay long at a particular fund. This means – a fund does not stay good for long.
The KLSE isn’t a very efficient market when compared to other countries which is why UT funds are still able to outperform our benchmark. This is the only reason they’re still in business. Because some still generate decent returns. However, if you think about it, when there are so many other cheaper alternatives out there that can do the same thing and beat the local KLCI index, is it necessary for you to pay the high fees for a fund manager to do the same thing?
Which is why we find ourselves comparing ETFs to UT funds.
I’ve written a previous article on the impact of fees which is a tad bit outdated. I realise that front-load charges (or sales charge) have gone down since that article.
To compare the cost of Unit Trusts vs ETFs, we assume the following:
- An initial investment of RM100K with no further reinvestment.
- A 30 year long term investment period.
- 10% return per annum.
- A conservative industrial average total expense ratio (TER) to be used. 2% for UTs and 1% for ETFs. Calculated below.
|Unit Trust Fund||Exchange Traded Fund|
|Initial investment cost |
in the 1st year
|Subsequent year cost||2.00%||1.00%|
Over a period of 30 years, just from the impact of fees alone, you will lose approximately RM340K or 35% of your returns. The difference in fees is only 1%.
Bear in mind that we are working with very conservative figures here. I know of many unit trust funds that charge much higher fees. And if we take a low-cost fund like Vanguard’s S&P 500 ETF instead, we will be looking at a much, much bigger difference.
The above example is only taking into account the fees you’re paying. I hope the simple comparison above makes the case for seeking lower fees.
If, after looking at the data and reading this, you still find yourself wanting to invest in unit trusts and mutual funds (you’re crazy), I’d ask you to look at online platforms like Fundsupermart. They are the cheapest as an online platform. Please do not get yours with agents who charge high sales charges.
ETFs Available in Malaysia
Back to ETFs, your choices for ETFs in Malaysia are actually many. These are all local ETFs available on Malaysia’s KLSE exchange and can be traded just like individual stocks.
Account opening can be done easily online with brokerages like Rakuten Trade. I list a comparison of all our local brokerage firms hERE.
Above is a list of ETFs found in Malaysia with their returns calculated based on NAV.
In terms of fees (which directly correlates to your returns), ETFs are superior to UT funds.
You may have other concerns with local ETFs. One of which would be their liquidity. You’d be happy to know that as a requirement by regulators, Malaysia’s ETFs are backed by market makers. So, liquidity issues? Check.
While researching local ETFs for this article, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find so many ETFs listed on the bourse. Looking forward to see more innovations and choices from ETFs in the future.
If you are looking for something to track our KLCI index, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI ETF tracks the top 30 companies in Malaysia by market cap. Another interesting one is TradePlus DWA Malaysia Momentum which uses smart beta (technical analysis) to select the top 20 Malaysian stocks with the highest momentum.
Looking for local ETFs in Malaysia that have foreign exposure, for example, China? TradePlus’ S&P New China economy, and Principal FTSE China 50 ETF both provide you with exposure.
To get exposure to the gold industry which is well known as a safe haven and good for hedging, we have the TradePlus Shariah Gold Tracker.
Choices of ETFs listed on Bursa Malaysia may not be as broad as those found in other countries, we do however still have a relatively good range of selection.
Another similar investment product that I didn’t mention above is actually Robo-advisors. They’re similar in some ways to UTs and ETFs but not so similar that I can compare them all in this article. If you’re interested in Robo-advisors, you can read about my Stashaway portfolio hERE.
As with all investments, be it UTs, ETFs, or Robo-advisors, I’d caution everyone to do their own due diligence and research before making an investment.
It is my sincere hope that Malaysians are more educated and just a little more financially literate after reading this article. May you make better financial decisions in the future.