Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management published the prospectus for the two companies’ planned merger, which was announced earlier this year. In 2016, gross inflows to GARS fell by 40%, from £17 billion in 2015 to £10.2 billion. The full year results for 2016 showed Standard Life’s multi-asset arm, which manages GARS, suffered a net outflow of £3.8 billion over the year. According to the document, GARS saw outflows of £2.8 billion over the first three months of 2017.
Over 12 months to the end of April, GARS returned just 0.4% to investors. These returns compare relatively favourably to competitor products from Aviva and Invesco, with their Multi- Strategy and Global Targeted Return funds up 1.6% and 3.6% respectively.
One possible explanation for this flight from GARS might be volatility or the lack of it. Volatility measures the upward and downward movements of markets. The S & P 500 3-month implied realised volatility index recently hit a low of 6.8, its third lowest reading ever.
During the financial crash of 2008, most pooled funds fell by 40% or more. Investors, thinking they were in medium risk investments, were quite happy with growth of 20% + but not prepared to accept a drop of 40% or more. In response, investment managers introduced new funds to protect investors against a similar future event. This involved giving up some growth potential in return for protection on the downside.
However, equity markets are now in full flight and that is particularly true of FTSE All Share Index which is up 20.1% over the last year. Investors may have been expecting more return from protected products than they delivered and have now grown tired of paying for protection they didn’t need. Car or home insurance can seem like a waste of money if you don’t have a claim, but what happens if you suddenly have two claims in the same year?
The low volatility we are currently experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean markets are expensive or about to fall, but judging by history, volatility is currently too low and will definitely return to markets at some stage.