The biggest challenge for investors in an environment such as the one we are experiencing now is that there is a lot of information, the environment is changing rapidly and there are many unknowns. In the past several weeks we have witnessed one of the fastest drops in markets in history, bond market liquidity has dried up, unemployment is rising, robust business models have unraveled with businesses such as Virgin Australia forced into administration and we have seen unprecedented levels of government stimulus. This follows an extended period where equity market returns were strong and volatility was at historically low levels.

Whether you are running an investment committee or speaking to clients in such an environment, going back to basics is warranted. Referring to your investment philosophy and the investment framework that underpins it is fundamental in periods such as this. Importantly, it will assist in avoiding making reactive investment decisions that can have an adverse impact on the long-term outcomes of your portfolios. This is particularly important in the current environment where there is a proliferation of news flow. On a client level, dusting off the investment philosophy and refocusing your client’s attention on your fundamental investment beliefs will help you deal with nervous clients and aid in preventing them from making kneejerk decisions relating to their investments.  If we cast our minds back to the GFC, we know that clients that were reactive and cashed out from a typical balanced portfolio locked in a loss of about 8.5% on average, whereas those that remained invested, benefitted from the subsequent rebound in markets.

At the core of Lonsec’s investment philosophy is our belief in a diversified portfolio approach across asset classes and investment strategies with a strong focus on risk management. We aim to do this through a combination of active asset allocation decisions focused on managing risk and active bottom-up investment selection focused on ensuring portfolio are diversified not only by asset class but also investment strategies. As a practical example, in the current environment our focus within asset allocation remains on valuation, cyclical and liquidity factors and market sentiment. This provides us a starting point for assessing the current environment.

From a bottom-up fund selection perspective, we remain focused on understanding the role that every fund plays in the portfolio recognising that during periods of severe market dislocation, our ‘risk control’ funds should provide some dampening against this volatility, whereas our ‘growth’ funds will more than likely suffer the full extent of any market moves.

The strength of having an investment framework will assist navigating through uncertain times as it helps understand performance drivers and ‘where to from here” scenarios. Additionally, it ensures that conversations we have with clients on expectations of portfolio performance are clear and easily understood.

For more information about how Lonsec can help you with your investment philosophy and process, please contact us on 1300 826 395 or info@lonsec.com.au.

What is it?

In September 2019, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a long-awaited independent review of Australia’s retirement income system.

The review, recommended by the Productivity Commission, will examine the retirement income system’s ‘three pillars’ –

  • the age pension,
  • superannuation, and
  • voluntary savings, including home ownership.

The Commission urged the government to carry out the review before increasing the superannuation guarantee (SG) rate. The SG is scheduled to rise in stages to 12% by 2025.

The review provides an important opportunity to evaluate how Australia’s retirement income system is tracking and what reforms may be needed to ensure the system is both equitable and sustainable over the long term. The system needs to accommodate the challenges of Australia’s ageing population and more people entering retirement with debt or without the security of a home.

Who is undertaking the review?

The review will be chaired by former senior treasury official Mike Callaghan, a former executive director of the IMF, and will include Carolyn Kay, a director of the Future Fund, and Deborah Ralston, professorial fellow in banking and finance at Monash University and a member of the central bank’s payments system board. She is also chair of the SMSF Association but will step down while working on the review.

The final report will be provided to the government by June 2020.

What will the review consider?

The terms of reference are quite high-level and broad and could cover:

  • home ownership – the review will examine the growing number of non-home owner retirees and how people survive the private rental market.
  • the interaction between super and the age pension – whether the means test acts as a disincentive to saving given the more super you have, the less pension you get. Also, whether an income test as well as an assets test is needed (Australia has two tests, unlike most other countries).
  • superannuation tax concessions.
  • income and intergenerational equity, and
  • the cost to the federal budget.

What it won’t cover

Industry experts have pushed for sensitive issues to be probed, such as including the value of a retiree’s home in the means test for the age pension and aged care, lifting the qualifying age for the government pension and overhauling superannuation tax breaks for the wealthy. However, the government appears to have ruled out touching some sensitive parts of the system, such as including the principal place of residence in the age pension asset test and cutting generous super tax concessions.

Concerns

In general, the review has been welcomed by industry participants, however, most have warned against ‘changing the goalposts’ on legislative arrangements for Australians who have already retired and are already partly or fully self-funding their retirement.

The government has sought to ease concerns with Senator Cormann stating the inquiry will not lead to a ‘major wave of significant reforms’ and will present a fact base which will inform the public about where the system is at and how it operates.

There is also nervousness about whether the government will seek to use the inquiry to abandon its timetable for increasing the superannuation guarantee (SG) to 12% by 2025 and reduce the beneficial tax treatment of superannuation, particularly for large balance holders.

Lonsec’s view

Lonsec believes that whatever the government is seeking to achieve from the review should be revealed to the industry as soon as possible. This will help provide clarity to those product providers operating in the Australian financial services industry looking to deliver new retirement products and services but are reluctant to do so until they fully understand the changing regulatory landscape.

The timeframe for the review recommendations is mid-year, however as any changes to the retirement income system become likely, Lonsec will provide a summary of these and help make sense of the implications for advisers.

The following lesson is one of IML’s ‘20 lessons for 20 years of quality and value investing’, which were recently published by Anton Tagliaferro and the IML investment team to mark 20 years since IML was founded.

We chose this lesson for Lonsec Retire, as it highlights the need for growth assets in retirement, particularly for early retirees who typically have investment timeframes of 20+ years.

The lesson illustrates the benefits of compounding by showing how companies that reinvest back into their businesses can reward investors with increasing dividends and appreciating share prices over the long-term. Increasing dividends is vital for retirees facing significantly lower returns from popular retirement income streams such as term deposits and traditional fixed income funds.


#6 The Power and Benefits of Compounding Over Time in Equity Portfolios

Most people are familiar with the concept of compound interest when it comes to term deposits, where one can earn interest on interest by continuing to roll over a term deposit. However, many investors do not relate the concept of compounding to their investments in the sharemarket.
Compounding occurs in the sharemarket when income from an investment is reinvested back into the business, and investors are rewarded with the benefits of increasing profits and appreciating share price growth over the long-term.
For investors in the sharemarket, there are two ways compounding can work in their favour to enhance their long-term returns.

These lessons are available both in hard copy and e-book format. For a copy of the book please register your interest here or email iml@iml.com.au

**IML and Lonsec  Investment Consulting will be holding a webinar as part of Lonsec Retire Program on Wednesday, February 12th, find out more.

Balancing the Needs, Challenges and Dilemmas of Retirement Investing

Retirement investing is necessarily complex.

The median super balance when entering retirement can’t support a comfortable lifestyle in the years ahead. In the first part of this series we outline the major investment building blocks and how they’re used to deliver better lifestyle outcomes for retirees.

Australians spend 40 years of their working life building an asset base to retire. For the majority1 this asset base on Day 1 of retirement is insufficient to pay for their remaining life costs should they wish to live comfortably2.

Specialised approaches to investing are the only way to breach this shortfall for retirees. Conceptually, growing our asset base in the accumulation phase is easy, we engage the growth investment engine and our risk is defined as opportunity cost.

In retirement, the engine of accumulation is still required.

Throughout the accumulation phase the investment engine was set to asset growth. For retirees, that engine must engage new gears, set for the unique combination of investment goals specific to retirement needs.

We spend 40+ years working to build an asset base to support us in retirement and in retirement we need that asset base to deliver 3 outcomes:

  • Income generation, but not at the expense of capital loss;
  • Growth of assets, but not risk losing all our savings;
  • Certainty of outcomes…

…and do all this for an unknown number of years.

The investment engine now requires three components to successfully drive retirement outcomes:

Income, growth and certainty are important individual investment components but paradoxically are not always complementary to each other. However, it is only by combining them that retirees can meet their overall retirement needs – this makes retirement investing complex.

Whilst the sub-components of retirement investing may be complex, the investment framework and discussion of its rationale need not be. Simply put:

  • Retirement investing has three core standalone objectives: Income, Growth, and Certainty which in combination are hard to balance. Each objective solves a specific Need, each Need presents a Challenge, and each Challenge has its own Dilemma

Based on the guidance provided by the ASFA Retirement Standards3, it’s clear that the Median Superannuation Balance4 isn’t enough to support a comfortable retirement.

We also know that the longer we live, the longer we’re expected to live. Thus, increasing the stress / responsibility on our savings to provide for retirement:

Life Expectancy At Age:

Age At Birth 65 75 80 85 90 95 100
Males 80.5 84.7 87.1 88.9 89.3 94.3 98.1 102.1
Females 84.6 87.3 89.1 90.4 89.9 94.9 98.3 102.3

Source: ABS 3302.0.55.001 – Life Tables, States, Territories and Australia, 2015-2017

With these data points in mind, aligning the investment engine to an investment strategy that meets client needs while engaging them in why and how this will help solve their problem isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be incomprehensible. Below we present each of the required retirement investment outcomes with their individual Need, Challenge and Dilemma concluding with a robust framework for delivering improved retiree lifestyles in retirement.

Income

Need: Income generation, accounting for inflation, avoiding the risk of capital loss.

Challenge: To generate enough income from retirees’ existing asset base.

Footnote: Yield required from asset base based on ATO Median 64-69 year old superannuation balance, accounting for pension payment for homeowning couple (Male and Female), using ASFA Comfortable spending requirement, ASFA Inflation assumption of 2.75% p.a.

Dilemma: Income generation isn’t as easy as it once was. Today, with income levels either too low (for our needs) or too risky (as standalone investments), focusing solely on generating enough income from our asset base introduces significant risks that our asset base may be eroded while not adequately rewarding for the risk of running out of money and diminishing quality of lifestyle in retirement. Alone, investing for income is not an adequate solution for this unique challenge.

1990 2000 2010 2019
RBA Cash Rate 17.5% 5.0% 3.75% 1.25%
Inflation 7.8% 1.9% 2.1% 1.3%
Real return on cash 9.7% 3.1% 1.65% -0.05%

Source: ABS, Inflation – Consumer price index; All groups, March 2019 (Series ID: GCPIAG)

Growth

Need: Growth of assets, but not at the expense of losing my asset base.

Challenge: Investing for growth is the only way to extend the duration of a comfortable retirement. However it can significantly increase the risk of reducing the extent of a comfortable retirement by eroding retirees’ asset base through poor returns. The ultimate measure of risk in retirement is “will this investment increase my risk of running out of money earlier?”, or in other words “what does this investment do to the range of outcomes for when I’ll run out of money?” To test what this risk is we add equities5 to cash, to build some simplistic scenarios to assess the impact of investing to achieve an expected 6% p.a. return6. This provides a picture of what the real risk of investing for growth to a retiree looks like.

Dilemma: Investing for growth is a prerequisite, but achieving growth and increasing the duration of a comfortable retirement isn’t risk free. Growth investing isn’t a straight-line reward, we all remember the GFC and the impact on invested savings. The risk to our asset base is real, finding the appropriate balance of this risk and appropriate growth assets can only come with a genuine understanding of the possible investments and how each may impact on retiree lifestyles.

Certainty

Need: With only our asset base to support our living standards, providing certainty is critical to maintaining those standards.

Challenge: Investing is uncertain. Retirement requires a level of certainty that traditional approaches may not facilitate. Certainty has an opportunity cost: lower risk necessitates lower expected peak returns.

There’s also a client engagement necessity of certainty. Australians are under-advised, so presenting them with comprehensible solutions and building trust as their partner is critical. It’s not hard to imagine that this trust would never eventuate if we were to introduce too much uncertainty, ultimately losing retirees through the diminished perception of the value of advice.

Being a genuine source of value to retirees throughout the most important part of their financial lives is of significant mutual benefit. This trust is facilitated through the use of solutions that provide increased certainty to investment outcomes.

Investment certainty and growth aren’t positively associated so approaches to retirement investing need to take certainty into account far more than in the accumulation phase. As a retiree knowing that my asset base will support a comfortable retirement for as long as possible is, arguably the most important goal to achieve.

Source: Bloomberg, based on calendar year total returns

Dilemma: People need advice to navigate the most complex of investment problems any of us face. Building trust in what we provide as fiduciaries is critical. The marriage of “complexity of challenge” and “simplicity of solution” isn’t straight forward or always self-evident, but is necessary to earn the trust of retirees.

Conclusion

In retirement, the investment engine of accumulation is still required. The task we set our engine is very different as finding the right mix of strategies providing Income, Growth and Certainty is imperative. Simply put, we have different needs as retirement investors.

Different needs require a different approach. The same strategies we employed in accumulation won’t work in retirement. We know this balance is imperative but equally important is the balance of the message for clients.

What remains constant, if not more important, is the trust we must maintain with retirees. We believe an understanding of the three key pillars of retirement investing, along with the challenges in achieving each and the dilemmas presented is essential. Having retirees’ needs at the centre of this understanding provides the best position to engage in the successful pursuit of a longer, more comfortable retirement.

Life is full of certainties, in retirement it’s no different: doing nothing leads to having nothing.

The solution isn’t easy, it requires; forgetting our investment approach in accumulation, different actions in the consideration of building investment structures and the adoption of unique investment approaches to truly ensure the retirement investment engine is working for retirees.

Specialised approaches to investing are the only way to breach this shortfall for retirees. Growing our asset base through a mix of growth, income and certainty increases the likelihood improving retirees’ retirement lifestyle for longer.

1 ATO Taxation Statistics 2016–17, Median super account balance, by ages 65 – 69, 2016–17 financial year
2 The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, Retirement Standard for retirees, March Quarter 2019, Comfortable Lifestyle
3 The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, Retirement Standard for retirees, March Quarter 2019, Comfortable Lifestyle
4 ATO Taxation Statistics 2016–17, Median super account balance, by ages 65 – 69, 2016–17 financial year
5 Lonsec Risk Profiles 2018, Step 3: Long term asset class return and risk assumptions, October 2018
6 ASFA, Retirement Standard March 2019, assumed investment earning rate
7 Calculated using Lonsec Risk Profiles, Long Term Asset Class Return and Risk assumptions to generate 6% p.a. expected return and using +/- 1 standard deviation to determine range of outcomes with c.66% confidence

Important Information

This document is intended for licensed financial advisers and institutional clients only and is not intended for use by retail clients. The information in this document is general information only and is not based on the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. No representation, warranty or undertaking is given or made in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in this document. Financial conclusions are reasonably held at the time of completion but subject to change without notice.

Talaria Asset Management Pty Ltd ABN 67 130 534 342, AFS Licence No, 333732 assumes no obligation to update this document following publication. Except for any liability which cannot be excluded, Talaria, its directors, officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability for any error or inaccuracy in, misstatement or omission from this document or any loss or damage suffered by the reader or any other person as a consequence of relying upon it.

As it continues to grapple with the challenges facing retirees, the Australian retirement industry in some ways resembles a research institution―continually coming up with ideas for solutions to those challenges, testing them, then implementing them and reviewing the results.

For those involved in such an enterprise, it’s always interesting to see how well (or badly) those solutions work in practice, and the extent to which they’ve validated their research hypotheses.

At AllianceBernstein, we’ve been running the numbers on an investment strategy we launched five years ago, primarily for investors saving for retirement.

The strategy was developed in collaboration with a major Australian superannuation fund which had asked us to look for ways to “smooth the ride” for its members―that is, to help them earn meaningful investment returns while reducing the downside risk in their portfolios.

Reducing downside risk is, of course, important for investors who are in retirement or approaching it: the less their portfolios lose, the more money they have left over to deal with future market drawdowns, and the risk that they might live longer than expected.

There are several aspects to the strategy but, at its heart, is a portfolio of low-volatility stocks and a focus on aiming to limit downside risk to 50% of what the market experiences, while seeking to capture 80% of the upside when the market recovers.

Our research indicated that this might be achievable by combining careful stock selection (about which more later) with the so-called low-volatility paradox (the well-attested fact that a portfolio of low-volatility stocks can outperform the market over time on a risk-adjusted basis).

It’s been an eventful five years with several market ups and downs and our research hypothesis has been well tested. What have we learned?

SMOOTHER, BUT STILL THE OCCASIONAL BUMP

Pleasingly, the strategy has performed well, outperforming the market over the period (Display) and providing investors with a smoother ride, particularly when the market fell.

Downside Protection Generated Outperformance

April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2019

Source: S&P Dow Jones and AB; see Performance Disclosure.

As of March 31, 2019

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Based on a representative Managed Volatility Equities account vs. S&P/ASX 300 Franking Credit Adjusted Daily Total Return (Tax-Exempt)

The returns presented above are gross of fees. The results do not reflect the deduction of investment-management fees or Fund costs. Performance figures include the value of any franking (or imputation) credits received. Numbers may not sum due to rounding. Periods of more than one year are annualised.

*For determining months when index is up or down, performance of S&P/ASX 300 (i.e., excluding franking credits) is used.

In fact, the strategy’s buffer on the downside contributed most to outperformance: the portfolio’s mean monthly return was 1.4% higher than the index when the market dipped and 0.3% lower when the market rose.

It’s interesting to note, too, that the strategy exceeded our aims in terms of upside/downside performance, with the portfolio suffering only 47% of the downside when the market fell (compared to our 50% target) and capturing 90% of the upside (our target was 80%).

There is a compounding effect at work here: limited downside means that the portfolio has less ground to make up when the market recovers, and this can contribute to outperformance over time.

It turns out, however, that even a strategy carefully designed to withstand volatility can experience the occasional bump, as happened when banks and mining companies performed very strongly after Donald Trump was elected US President in November 2016.

Bank and mining stocks tend to be volatile and, because they don’t figure highly in our low-volatility strategy, they were underweighted by our portfolio at the time. Financials and materials, of course, are the Australian share market’s biggest sectors. As they drove the market up, our portfolio lagged.

But the effect was short-lived and had relatively little impact on overall performance, appearing to validate one part of our hypothesis, that a low-volatility portfolio can outperform over time. What about the other part, regarding stock selection and portfolio management?

THE BIGGEST LESSON OF ALL

This consisted of five basic principles:

  • choose low-volatility stocks where the underlying businesses are high quality, with good cash flows and strong balance sheets, and the shares are reasonably valued
  • use fundamental research to avoid ‘volatility traps’, or the risk that idiosyncratic factors―such as a takeover bid―can make a normally stable stock suddenly volatile
  • ignore market benchmarks when constructing the portfolio: this makes it easier to focus on low-volatility stocks, and to avoid the volatility inherent in Australian equity indices
  • invest up to 20% of the portfolio in global stocks as a way of reducing risk, and making up for the necessity of limiting the portfolio’s access to the Australian market
  • manage macroeconomic risk―such as the potential impact on the portfolio of Brexit or the US-China trade wars―thoughtfully, so that the removal of one risk doesn’t inadvertently create exposure to another

Applying these principles consistently contributed positively to performance over the period.

Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned, however, is that it’s possible to deliver investors above-market returns with below-market volatility.

We’re happy to share that knowledge, and the benefits it delivers, with our colleagues in the industry who are seeking to create a better retirement future for Australians.

The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams and are subject to revision over time.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE AB MANAGED VOLATILITY EQUITIES FUND AllianceBernstein Investment Management Australia Limited (ABN 58 007 212 606, AFSL 230 683) (“ABIMAL”) is the responsible entity of the AllianceBernstein Managed Volatility Equities Fund (ARSN 099 739 447) (“Fund” or “AB Managed Volatility Equities Fund”) and is the issuer of units in the Fund. AllianceBernstein Australia Limited (“ABAL”) ABN 53 095 022 718, AFSL 230 698 is the investment manager of the Fund. ABAL in turn has delegated a portion of the investment manager function to AllianceBernstein L.P.(“AB”). The Fund’s Product Disclosure Statement (“PDS”) is available at the following link https://web.alliancebernstein.com/funds/au/equity/managed-volatility-equities.htm

or by contacting the client services team at AllianceBernstein Australia Limited at (02) 9255 1299.

Neither this document nor the information contained in it are intended to take the place of professional advice. Please note that past performance is not indicative of future performance and projections, although based on current information, may not be realised. Information, forecasts and opinions can change without notice and neither ABIMAL or ABAL guarantees the accuracy of the information at any particular time. Although care has been exercised in compiling the information contained in this report, neither ABIMAL or ABAL warrants that this document is free from errors, inaccuracies or omissions.

This document is released by AllianceBernstein Australia Limited ABN 53 095 022 718, AFSL 230 698.

DISCLAIMER

This document is provided solely for informational purposes and is not an offer to buy or sell securities. The information, forecasts and opinions set out in this document have not been prepared for any recipient’s specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Neither this document nor the information contained in it are intended to take the place of professional advice. You should not take action on specific issues based on the information contained in the attached without first obtaining professional advice. The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams. Current analysis does not guarantee future results.

INFORMATION ABOUT ALLIANCEBERNSTEIN

AllianceBernstein (AB) is a leading global investment management and research firm. We bring together a wide range of insights, expertise and innovations to advance the interests of our institutional investors, individuals and private clients in major world markets. AB offers a comprehensive range of research, portfolio management, wealth management and client-service offices around the world, reflecting our global capabilities and the needs of our clients. As at March 31, 2019, our firm managed US$555 billion in assets, including US$257 billion on behalf of institutions. These include pension plans, superannuation schemes, charities, insurance companies, central banks, and governments in more than 45 countries. This document is released by AllianceBernstein Australia Limited (“ABAL”) ABN 53 095 022 718, AFSL 230 698. AllianceBernstein Australia Limited (ABAL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the AllianceBernstein, L.P. Group (AB).

An in-depth analysis of the new social security means test assessment of lifetime income streams and the significant opportunities it presents for retirement income advice.

To access the insights, please click here.

Imagine a baby is born in Europe at the very moment you finish this article. That child can expect to live for two minutes longer than one born as you finish this sentence. Increasing lifespans threaten to topple the current pensions model. But, then again, maybe it’s time for a change.

To access the insights, please click here.

What are the real underlying structural forces bewildering the RBA? Is cash the king once again? Find out more about these and other interesting topics in Pendal’s latest review of fixed interest markets.

To access the insights, please click here.

 

I have learnt over my many years of investing that there are three reasons why dividends are key for investors:

1. Dividends are an important part of the return of an equity portfolio

2. The level of dividends is not impacted by the level of the sharemarket

3. The dividend yield on stocks can act as a ‘safety net’ in times of volatility

Dividends are an important part of the return

Over the long term, returns from an equity portfolio come from 2 sources – the capital appreciation from the shares held in the portfolio as well as the dividends received.
When one analyses the returns of these two components from the Australian sharemarket (the ASX 300) over the last 20 and 40 years the results are as follows:

Source: Calculated using IRESS data indices 31 December 1979 – 30 June 2018

As can be seen from the table above around half of the returns from the Australian sharemarket in the last 20 and 40 years have come from dividends – emphasising how important the dividends received from one’s portfolios are to the total return received from that an equity portfolio over time.

As can be seen from the table above around half of the returns from the Australian sharemarket in the last 20 and 40 years have come from dividends – emphasising how important the dividends received from one’s portfolios are to the total return received from that an equity portfolio over time.

The level of dividends received are not impacted by the level of the sharemarket

While the level of capital returns from an equity portfolio over any period depends on the movement in the share prices, the level of dividends received by an investor from an equity portfolio is dependent on the performance of the underlying companies’ earnings. The level of dividends and the dividend payout ratio of any company is set by the Board of the company and is generally a reflection of the overall profitability of a company – independent of its share price.

This is an important point to remember as it means that in negative periods in the sharemarket, an investor’s level of dividends from a diversified portfolio – if made up of quality companies with the right attributes – should not vary greatly from year to year and is largely irrelevant of what is happening on the overall sharemarket.

The chart below demonstrates this by comparing the volatility of the level of capital return to the level of dividend from the ASX 300 over the last 20 years.

Chart 1: volatility of returns of capital and income of the ASX 300 over 20 years

Source: IML, S&P ASX300 31/03/1998 – 30/06/2018

As can be seen from the chart above while the level of capital returns’ volatility has been quite high over the last 20 years – not surprisingly perhaps as it contains periods such as the tech boom and bust and the GFC and Eurozone crisis – the volatility of the dividends received by an investor from the ASX 300 has been very low – depicting the steadiness of dividends and this part of an investor’s returns.

The movement in the sharemarket particularly over shorter time periods of 6 to 12 months is more often than not dictated by the mood of investors. The mood of investors is impacted by things such as the predictions for future level of economic activity, inflation and interest rates as well as perceptions of geopolitical stability.

Often with hindsight what are quite minor events from an economic standpoint can cause the mood of investors to sour markedly and lead to large declines in the sharemarket. For example, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991 led to all sorts of gloomy predictions about an impending global recession by many market analysts and economists.

Times of a perceived crisis can cause many investors to panic, and the prices of most shares can fall heavily initially as many investors/traders reduce their overall level of sharemarket exposure by rapidly selling shares indiscriminately and independent of their quality. What I have observed over the many years of investing is that once the panic subsides and some sort of normality is restored, those companies with sustainable earnings that can support a healthy dividend stream are often the shares that recover the quickest.

The reason for this is fairly obvious – rational long-term investors are always attracted to companies that pay a healthy dividend from a sustainable earnings stream as they understand that the level of returns from dividends is not dependent on future share price performance.

In other words, once shares in quality companies fall to a level where the dividend yield is attractive, this attracts long-term investors to start buying these shares as they ‘lock in’ the attractive dividend yield, despite a volatile sharemarket.

Concluding remarks
The lesson for investors is to always remember the importance of dividends when investing in the sharemarket. Dividends provide sharemarket investors not only with a consistent part of their total return but can also act as a ‘safety net’ in down trending markets. Dividends also provide investors with a relatively stable part of returns through the delivery of real cash flow, irrespective of the sharemarket cycle.

As a bottom-up value manager, fundamentals are crucial to deciding which companies are included in IML’s portfolios – mainly the quality and transparency of the earnings, cash flow generation, gearing levels or balance sheet strength – which ultimately is what is important in the level of dividends paid by companies to investors.

While the information contained in this article has been prepared with all reasonable care, Investors Mutual Limited (AFSL 229988) accepts no responsibility or liability for any errors, omissions or misstatements however caused. This information is not personal advice. This advice is general in nature and has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. The fact that shares in a particular company may have been mentioned should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy, sell or hold that stock.

 

Anton Tagliaferro, Investors Mutual Limited

Important information: Any express or implied rating or advice is limited to general advice, it doesn’t consider any personal needs, goals or objectives.  Before making any decision about financial products, consider whether it is personally appropriate for you in light of your personal circumstances. Obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement for each financial product and seek professional personal advice before making any decisions regarding a financial product.