If you invest in a unit trust or fund, your money is pooled with money from other investors and invested in a portfolio of assets according to the fund’s stated investment objective and investment approach.
A unit trust is a fund which adopts a trust structure; not all funds use a trust structure. In this guide, the term “fund” will also refer to a unit trust.
Unit trusts versus ILPs
Investment-linked insurance policies (ILPs) are another way to invest in funds. The difference between these and unit trusts is that ILPs combine life insurance coverage and investment components. Your premiums are used to pay for units in sub-funds of your choice, and some of the units are then sold to pay for insurance and other charges.
If your main goal is investment, you may wish to consider unit trusts. Sometimes, the ILP sub-fund that you are interested in may also be offered as a unit trust (i.e. without insurance coverage).
How it works
In Singapore, local and foreign funds offered to retail investors are regulated as collective investment schemes. A fund manager manages the unit trust or fund. They are paid a management fee from the fund, typically based on a percentage of the assets they manage.
Returns from unit trusts
You invest in a fund by buying units in the fund. There is a capital gain when the price of the units rises above the price you paid for the fund. Some funds pay dividends.
The price of each unit is based on the fund’s net asset value (NAV) divided by the number of units outstanding. The NAV of a fund is the market value of the fund’s net assets (investments, cash and other assets minus expenses, payables and other liabilities.) The NAV is usually computed daily to reflect changes in the prices of the investments held by the fund.
What’s the most you can lose?
Funds are not principal or capital-guaranteed. You may lose a substantial amount of the money you invested in certain situations. The risks of investing in the fund are described in the product offering documents such as the prospectus and the product highlights sheet.
Fees can also reduce your returns. Fees are usually payable regardless of how well or poorly the fund performs. Even if your fund’s value has been fairly stable, the fees you pay will, over time, reduce the value of your investment.
Why invest in funds?
Funds invest in a diversified range of assets. A fund’s diversified portfolio means risks can be better spread over the assets in the fund.
What are the risks?
Some of the risks associated with investing in unit trusts include the following:
The fund’s NAV or trading prices will be affected by changes in the value of the assets in the fund that in turn are affected by changing economic, political or market conditions.
There is no secondary market for funds that are not listed. Hence, you can only redeem your units on the fund’s dealing days.
The secondary market may also be illiquid for funds that are listed and traded on a securities exchange. This may affect the prices at which you buy or sell.
Interest rate risk
Funds that invest in bonds, debentures or other debt securities will be exposed to interest rate movements because the prices of debt securities tend to move in an opposite direction to interest rates. For instance, debt securities prices generally fall when interest rates rise.
Foreign currency or foreign exchange risk
Funds that invest in assets denominated in foreign currencies may be exposed to adverse currency movements. The fund’s currency base may also be different from your own.
Funds may be exposed to the risk that the counterparty that they trade with is unable to meet its payment obligations due to a deterioration of the counterparty’s financial situation or otherwise.
Are funds suitable for you?
Investing in funds may not be for everyone. Before you invest, make sure that you:
- Want potentially higher returns BUT are also prepared for variable returns which include the risk of losing a substantial part of your investment
- Understand how returns are calculated or the factors that can affect returns, such as fees and other expenses.
- Understand the fund’s investment objective, strategy or approach. This includes understanding how it intends to achieve its investment objective under different market conditions, and how the limits it has in place on the amount of risk it can take can affect its returns.
- Are clear about the fund’s benchmark and whether the fund is seeking to outperform, or merely replicate the returns of the benchmark.
- Are familiar with the fund manager and fund’s track record.
- Understand the risks associated with the fund.
- Some funds use financial derivatives for hedging or investment purposes. You should be aware of the risks associated with the use of financial derivatives, including the risk that the provider (or counterparty) of the financial derivatives defaults.
- Understand how to interpret indicators, such as excess returns, active share and tracking error, that are disclosed in fund disclosure documents. You may refer to the section on ‘passive or active management’ for details on active share and tracking error.
- Compare both active and passive funds to determine which type of funds better meet your investment needs.
- Are prepared to have your money tied up for long periods of time.
- As funds are exposed to market ups and downs, investors who stay invested long enough may be better able to ride out the downturns.
- You should have adequate financial resources so that you won’t have to liquidate your funds during a market downturn. If you need to convert your investments to cash in the short-term to meet specific needs, some funds may not be suitable for you.
Types of Funds
There are different types of funds available, each with its own investment objective and investment approach or strategy.
The investment objective may be capital appreciation or to generate income. The fund manager decides the fund’s investment strategy (to achieve the investment objective) and what assets to buy or sell.
Funds with the same investment objective may use different investment strategies to achieve the same goal. You should ensure that the fund manager’s investment style is in line with your own investment objectives.
When choosing a fund, consider the following:
What assets it invests in
Investment strategy or approach?
Risk and return profile
Passive or active management
Investing in a fund
Funds are available from financial institutions and online financial platforms.
You can invest in funds using cash, or via the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) or the Central Provident Fund Investment Scheme (CPFIS).
What you can invest in
The list of funds authorised or recognised by MAS for sale to retail investors is available on the website via OPERA, the electronic repository for public offers of investments.
Singapore-constituted funds are known as “authorised funds” while foreign funds are known as “recognised funds”.
When recommending a fund, your financial advisor is required to disclose to you the key features of the product including the following:
- Nature and aim of the product
- Benefits of the product
- Risks of the product
- Details about the fund manager
- Fees and charges to be borne by you
- Share of fees and commissions due to the financial adviser
- Warnings, exclusions and disclaim
If you change your mind: right to cancel
You can change your mind about your fund purchase within 7 calendar days.
There will not be any administrative penalty for cancelling your purchase but you may suffer a loss if the fund has fallen in market value after you bought it.
If the market value of the fund has risen, you will get a full refund of what you paid for the fund, but you will not be entitled to the gain. In either case, the sales charge will be refunded to you.
The right to cancel is not available if:
- You are making additional investments in a fund that you already own
- You purchased a recognised fund or a fund that is listed on the Singapore Exchange
Evaluating a fund’s performance
You should monitor your fund regularly to ensure that it continues to meet your objectives. Do read the fund manager’s regular fund reports to keep abreast of how your fund is doing.
Key questions to ask before investing**
Funds differ in terms of investment objectives, strategies, risks and costs. Before you invest, consider the following:
Do you know your own investment objectives?
- Make a list of your needs and goals, personal circumstances and risk profile.
- What investment objectives are you trying to achieve by adding this fund to your investment portfolio?
Does the fund match your objectives and risk profile?
- Ensure that the fund’s investment strategies are in line with your own objectives.
- Make sure you understand the risks and are comfortable that it matches your own risk profile.
- Ensure that the fund you are investing in fits in with your portfolio’s over risk-return profile and does not concentrate your exposure to certain risks
Are you comfortable with the fund manager?
- You should be satisfied that the fund manager has the necessary resources, experience and skills to manage your investment.
- Check their track record. However, note that past performance is not necessarily an indication of future performance.
Do you need financial advice?
If you need financial advice to help you decide whether to buy a fund and which fund to buy, please speak to a financial adviser representative.
However, if you do not need financial advice, you may consider buying the fund through other channels that may cost less, such as platforms offered by banks or online fund platforms.What are the fees and charges you will incur?
Find out what you will be charged, when and why. You can ask some of the following questions:
What are all the fees relating to this purchase? Is there a fee schedule that lists all of the fees, both one-time and ongoing, that will be charged?
Are any of the fees avoidable or negotiable?
Can I lower my costs by buying a fund through a different financial institution or online fund platforms?
How is my financial adviser being remunerated? What kind of service is expected for the remuneration?
Have you compared it to other products?
Find out about alternative investment products and compare their risk-return profile and features with the product introduced to you.
Assess all the fees and charges that you will incur in buying and holding a fund before deciding whether to invest in it. Compare the fees and charges that will be incurred by (i) different funds with the same investment objectives or approach, and (ii) the same fund through different channels.