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SMSFs warned on portfolio risk

By Tim Stewart
August 15 2014
1 minute read

The median SMSF portfolio carries about twice as much risk as the typical institutional growth fund, according to research by Vanguard Investments.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser’s sister publication InvestorDaily, Vanguard head of market strategy and communications Robin Bowerman said Vanguard’s investment strategy team compared the portfolios of 1,000 SMSFs to garden-variety growth funds.

Using data from Investment Trends, the research found that 45 per of the typical SMSF portfolio consists of 15-18 blue-chip Australian equities.


SMSFs also have around 26 per cent of their portfolio devoted to cash.

Institutional growth funds, by comparison, use fixed income rather than cash for the defensive part of their portfolio, and have a large exposure to international equities (a feature that is distinctly lacking in SMSFs).

Mr Bowerman was quick to stress that it was not a matter of pointing fingers and labelling one portfolio as ‘right’ and the other as ‘wrong’.

In fact, a ‘sanity check’ shows that most SMSFs performed pretty much in line with the rest of the market during the GFC, he said.

“But when you get onto the risk measure, then you can see that SMSFs probably have double the amount of risk in the portfolio,” said Mr Bowerman.

The median SMSF portfolio has a lot more volatility than a mainstream institutional diversified fund, he said.

“It’s two things: it’s the lack of exposure to international shares, but it’s also the concentration risk within the securities,” he said.

By plotting the 1,000 SMSFs on a risk/return graph, Vanguard showed the portfolios were well below the ‘efficient frontier’ of low risk and high returns.

“When you ask SMSF trustees how they rank themselves they typically put themselves in the balanced to conservative end of the game,” said Mr Bowerman. “But what these ports are saying is they’re actually high growth investors.

“People just need to be aware of the level of risk within a portfolio,” said Mr Bowerman.