Fisher Funds announces plans to buy Huljich KiwiSaver accounts, growing its membership by close to 100,000

Fisher Funds announces plans to buy Huljich KiwiSaver accounts, growing its membership by close to 100,000

By Amanda Morrall

Boutique fund manager Fisher Funds has announced it plans to buy almost 100,000 KiwiSaver accounts from Huljich Wealth Management in the biggest takeover the fast-growing KiwiSaver industry has seen since its inception.

While the offer awaits approval from the Government Actuary, Fisher Funds funds managing director Carmel Fisher said she was confident the purchase (whose value was undisclosed) would go through by May.

The acquisition of Huljich's KiwiSaver division will see Fisher Funds membership explode overnight from 20,500 to almost 100,000 with $400 million in assets transforming it into one of the largest non-default schemes in the country.

Fisher said the takeover reinforced her company's long-term interest in KiwiSaver.

"We really believe in KiwiSaver and we want to be a big player.''

Fisher said she wouldn't rule out a further takeover if the opportunity presented itself and reaffirmed her interest in default-provider Tower's KiwiSaver business. The company earlier acquired First NZ Capital's KiwiSaver business with 1,000 members.

Fisher said economies of scale were necessary to make KiwiSaver attractive for both members and providers.

"We want to have enough scale to be a credible, sustainable player in the KiwiSaver space but we're also committed to being a great fund manager.''

In a joint statement announcing the move, Huljich chairman John Banks said the sale was driven, in part, by a recognition of increasing compliance costs.

"The shareholders (of Huljich) have now decided to move on from the KiwiSaver business, recognising that increasing compliance costs and regulation will change the KiwiSaver landscape in future years.

"Economies of scale will be increasingly important and it will be vital for providers to remain competitive in terms of service and performance.''

 Huljich's management of its KiwiSaver scheme has been under scrutiny since revelations fund performance figures were manipulated by director Peter Huljich. (See Gareth Morgan opinion piece here).

Fisher was forward looking about the acquisition and said KiwiSavers (who would all be notified by mail) could look forward to inheriting an experienced investment team with award-winning communication capabilities.

According to research analyst Morningstar, Fisher Funds KiwiSaver Growth Fund has been the best performing growth or aggressive fund over one, two, and three years to December 31, 2010.

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