China mutual funds cut fees as regulator targets $3.7-T sector
SHANGHAI/SINGAPORE -More than a dozen major mutual fund companies in China cut fees in roughly 1,500 fund products on Monday as regulators started reforming fee practices in the $3.7 trillion industry in an effort to reduce costs to investors.
The money managers, including China Asset Management Co and Bank of Communications Schroder Fund Management Co, said in separate statements that management fees in certain equity-focused products would be cut to 1.2 percent of fund assets, from 1.5 percent previously. The custodian fee would be reduced to 0.2 percent of assets from 0.25 percent.
The cuts, which the fund companies said in identical phrasing were “aimed at reducing investors’ costs in managing their wealth”, come after China’s securities regulator on Saturday vowed to guide mutual fund fees lower.
Chinese mutual funds on average charge investors higher fees than peers in developed markets such as the United States, according to Morningstar.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said it had drafted reform plans after listening to opinions from market participants, and would optimize mutual funds’ fee-charging model and steadily lower the industry’s fee rates.
Fund management fees would be capped at 1.2 percent of assets and custodian fees at 0.2 percent, state media reported.
“The fee cuts will hit fund companies’ earnings in the short-term,” with the pain felt the most by those heavily focused on active equity products, said Ivan Shi, head of research at fund consultancy Z-Ben Advisors.
“It’s not yet clear if lower fee costs would facilitate fund product sales.” The reform comes as regulators also seek to limit executive pay at fund management companies and banks in a so-called “common prosperity” drive designed to reduce wealth gaps. Fund managers are often blamed by retail investors in a sluggish market for pocketing fat fees despite their underperformance.
An index tracking the performance of China’s actively-managed equity funds tumbled 22.3 percent last year, more than the 15.1 percent fall in the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index. Nevertheless, the industry collected 144.1 billion yuan in management fees in 2022, up 1.7 percent from a year earlier, according to TX Investment Consulting Co.
The industry’s total assets under management doubled over the past four years to 26.68 trillion yuan ($3.70 trillion) at the end of March.
FullGoal Fund Management Co said it would cut fees on 119 products starting Monday, while Harvest Fund Management announced cuts for 113 products.
Other fund houses announcing fee reductions include ICBC Credit Suisse Asset Management Co and Zhong Ou Asset Management Co, which is partly owned by Warburg Pincus.
In Saturday’s statement, the CSRC said fee cuts would bring fund industry’s growth more in line with investors’ interest.
The reform will be rolled out in several stages, with fund companies to be prodded initially to lower fees for equity products, and launch more types of funds such as those with floating fee rates, official Shanghai Securities News reported over the weekend.
In later stages, the watchdog will seek to lower trading fees of fund products, and also regulate fee practices in fund distribution.
The government has been mulling the reform for some time.
The CSRC published opinions in April last year to promote high-quality growth of the mutual fund industry.
China’s state council, or cabinet, issued policies last September to encourage fee reductions in the securities and fund industries.
($1 = 7.2205 Chinese yuan renminbi)