With the launch of the RHB GoldenLife Funds last year, RHB Unit Trust Management Bhd (RHBUT) manages nine funds with a total size of about RM1.4bil as at Dec 31 last year. In an interview with StarBiz journalist DALJIT DHESI, chief executive officer Michael Tan unveiled several measures that will benefit investors and business partners and, at the same time, prepare the company to face the challenges in the fund management industry.
STARBIZ: How has the past year been for RHB Unit Trust?
Tan: Well, I believe we had quite a wonderful year. We launched two funds this year and over the past year we strove hard to improve our sales and services for the company's business partners and investors.
For the last 18-month financial period ended Dec 31, 2004, RHBUT managed to achieve total sales of more than RM900mil. Our fund size has moved up from RM850mil to about RM1.4bil in just two years and I am thankful to all business partners and investors for having supported us this far.
StarBiz: With the rapid changes going on in the unit trust industry, what has RHBUT in store this year?
Tan: Our emphasis this year will focus on developing new innovative funds to bring freshness and appeal to the investing public. We have in store a string of funds to be launched this year. We launched our first life cycle fund, the RHB GoldenLife Funds, in February.
This will be the first for RHBUT and with this fund we have added on a new asset management company, UOB-OSK Asset Management, into our panel.
This signifies a bold step on our part to form strategic alliances with third-party asset management companies and in establishing more choices for our partners and investors.
Also, with effect from Jan 1 (this year), the company is a licensed Institutional Unit Trust Agent (IUTA).
With this, we are planning to expand our range of funds, especially in complimenting our current fund list, thus, offering more choices to our business partners and investors.
As a third-party fund distributor we will be moving towards providing a multiple product platform. This is critical, especially we are going through the preparatory phase, in light of the emerging financial planning platform.
We could facilitate our business partners, especially those who are moving towards financial advisory services, in offering a wide range of funds.
StarBiz: What values is the company thinking of providing its business partners this year?
Tan: RHBUT is constantly finding new ways of adding value to our business partners, sales channels and existing customers. We are in the final stages of developing an online research and support portal, ePartnerAccess, for our authorised agents.
This portal, developed with Perkasa Normandy Advisory Sdn Bhd, is an independent information portal and serves to provide our licensed agents access to unit trust funds information besides that of RHBUT’s.
This one-stop portal for information also gives our licensed agents access to the latest market updates, unit trust funds comparison and also serves as a communication platform for RHBUT to its agents. This facility will be offered to all authorised agents of RHBUT free of charge.
StarBiz: As for investors, are there any new ways that RHBUT is looking at to provide them better services?
Tan: Since November last year, we have implemented our short messaging service (SMS), which the company utilised to inform investors about the status of their sales and redemption application.
For sales, investors will receive an SMS once their investments have been processed and for redemption, investors will be informed if their proceeds have been banked in or their cheques posted to them.
These services may seem small, but we believe that investors will always be delighted to receive prompt response and update on the status of their investments, especially when the info is accessed within reach via their handphones.
Since then, we have also included the SMS service in alerting our agents on their EPF clients whose accounts are due for withdrawal.
With the convenience of using SMS, we plan to go full fledged with this service by the second half this year. By then, customers and business partners can expect to receive info such as fund prices and holdings via their handphones.
StarBiz: What will be the major highlight for the industry this year?
Tan: The financial planning landscape is gradually taking off and this is changing the entire concept of selling unit trust. Unit trust representatives with financial planning knowledge can assist investors in wealth accumulation and planning.
Therefore, to compete for investible funds, the conventional unit trust agents of the company must be further trained in financial planning.
We look towards gradually transforming our agents to become more advisory-based. We are working with the Institute for Financial Professionals and Advisors (IFPA) in facilitating this process.
All RHBUT agents will need to pursue the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) course through which we are targeting them to be equipped with the CFP trademark in five years.
Moving ahead, a viable financial planning service and support will, in particular, complement the investment industry as the presence of independent financial planning professionals will help broaden consumer awareness of the different products and strategies available to them.
More importantly, as financial markets and products become larger and more sophisticated with more choices available, the services of qualified financial planners will become increasingly important.
StarBiz: Could you shed some light on the recently launched RHB GoldenLife Funds?
Tan: It is a series of retirement-purpose funds geared towards assisting investors in meeting their retirement planning, thus ensuring that they are better prepared financially to enjoy their golden years.
The main objective of the funds is to provide investors with a steady income stream after they retire. It is also to serve as a supplement to their current pension schemes.
The GoldenLife series comprises four funds – the RHB GoldenLife Today (GL Today), RHB GoldenLife 2010 (GL 2010), RHB GoldenLife 2020 (GL 2020) and RHB GoldenLife 2030 (GL 2030).
As the names of three of the funds denote, they are targeted at investors who plan to retire in or around 2010, 2020 or 2030.
All that the investor has to do is select the fund in which its year of maturity comes closest to his preferred year of retirement. We will then take care of the rest for them.
In the early years of the funds’ life, a larger portion of the investments will be invested in a mix of stocks and bonds to take advantage of growth opportunities.
As time passes, and retirement approaches, the portfolio will gradually be moved to less risky fixed-income oriented instruments.
The fourth fund, GL Today, is designed for retirees who seek a regular fixed income or those who are interested in a conservative portfolio with some exposure to the stock market.
For the first three funds, the allocation of investments in stocks and bonds is monitored and changed according to prescribed guidelines, and eventually converted to GL Today as the investor retires.