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Unitisation and superannuation

What is ‘unitisation’, and what does it mean for the money in your super?

Super works by investing your super contributions into a portfolio of different investments, known as funds, to help grow the amount of money you have for retirement. There are many funds to choose from across different asset classes, strategies and risk profiles, depending on your needs. But how is a fund invested, and how does your investment in a fund add value to your super balance? Colonial First State explores the concept of unitisation and what it means for your money in super.

What happens when you invest in a fund?

When you invest in a fund, you’re pooling your money with other investors to access a professionally managed portfolio of investments overseen by skilled investment managers. This can offer you access to a broad range of investment opportunities that may be otherwise inaccessible or difficult to manage on your own. All investors in a fund share the gains and losses it makes over time, with each member allocated a number of units depending on how much money they each have invested.

What do units have to do with super?

Super is invested in financial markets, which fluctuate higher and lower each day for a number of reasons. This means that the value of a fund’s investments (and, in turn, your overall super balance) will also fluctuate over time. Fluctuations are measured through daily changes in a fund’s unit price. The unit price can be used to determine the value of your investment in a fund as well as the contribution it makes to your overall super balance. Also note that fluctuations can vary depending on what asset classes your chosen fund is invested in. When making changes to your investment in a fund, the unit price you receive will depend on the value of the fund’s investments on that day – provided you have submitted your change request by the relevant cut-off time.

 

 

Example: The value of your investment and the unit price are connected

 

  • If you submit an application to invest $1,000 in a fund on 1 September, you will receive the unit price for that day to determine the number of units of ownership you receive in that fund. So if the unit price on application was $1.00, you’d receive 1,000 units.
  • If the unit price goes up the following day, moving from $1.00 to $1.03, and you put in another application to invest a further $100 in the fund, you would be allocated 97.0874 units. This number is reached by dividing your $100 investment by the $1.03 unit price. Your total number of units in that fund would then be 1097.0874. 
  • If the unit price increases in future, this means that the value of your investment will also increase. For example, if the unit price is $1.3673 in two years’ time, your 1097.0873 units in the fund would be worth about $1,500 in total.
  • With 1097.0873 units in the fund, the gain you would have made over that period is $400 e.g. the current value of your investment minus the amounts you’ve invested over time ($1,500 – $1,000 – $100)

 

Note: For Colonial First State's FirstChoice Wholesale platform, the unit price you receive is the unit price which applies on the day we receive a transaction request, provided the request is received before 3 pm, Sydney time, on any NSW business day.

How is the unit price determined?

Colonial First State calculates the unit prices of funds on a daily basis, using market data for the prior business day in order to capture the relevant values of investments across global financial markets, which generally close in different time zones. That means the unit price you receive for an application or redemption made today will be calculated tomorrow based on today’s close-of-market values.

 

 

Example: Calculating the price of an Australian share fund

 

  • Value of investments in a fund. For an Australian share fund, Colonial First State calculates the unit price each day, using the previous day’s end-of-day market values for each individual investment in that fund. Note that determining the final unit price can depend on the type of fund you’ve invested in and the different kinds of investments in that fund.
  • Net Asset Value (or NAV). The team adds all the assets of the fund (the value of its investments, cash and receivables) and deducts the fund’s liabilities (the payables and fees) to determine its total value – that is, the Net Asset Value, or NAV.
  • Unit value (or price). Next, the team takes the NAV and divides it by the total number of units held by all investors in the fund to determine the value of one unit. 
  • Investment value for a member. To determine how much your investment would be worth if you were to withdraw it today, you could calculate this by taking the number of units you own in a fund and multiplying it by the withdrawal price on a given day. This unit price is available on our website daily.

What is a Spread, and what does it mean for the unit price?

Investment managers use the money you have invested in a fund to buy or sell investments, and these often include brokerage or transaction fees. When units are allocated, an estimate of these likely brokerage or transaction fees is made and then included in the unit price. This means you are paying for your portion of the costs associated with entering or exiting a fund.

 

While Colonial First State applies this Spread, it is not a fee and it is not paid to Colonial First State. Rather, the amount is kept within the fund, and is designed to ensure existing investors are not paying the costs associated with other investors making changes to their investment in the fund. Accordingly, different prices are calculated for investors putting money in or taking money out:

 

Application price (putting money into the fund) = NAV price x (1 + spread %)


Withdrawal price (taking money out of the fund) = NAV price x (1 – spread %)

 

The Spread percentage is included in the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for the fund.

Why might unit prices differ across different funds?

Colonial First State offers more than 150 investment options for you to choose from – not only offering you more choice, but also helping you to diversify your investment mix. However, across our range of investment options, you will find that the unit prices differ for each fund. The amount that unit prices move each day will depend on each fund’s:

 

  • investments – whether it has higher-risk growth assets like shares, property, infrastructure and derivatives, or lower-risk defensive assets such as cash and fixed interest.
  • fund type – for example, whether the fund is invested as a multi-sector, single-sector or multi-index fund, or if it is actively or passively managed etc.
  • risk profile – if the fund is defensive (higher exposure to defensive assets), balanced (with a combination of assets) or high-growth (with more exposure to growth investments) etc.
  • fees – such as management or performance fees for the management of the fund
  • product type – for example, whether the fund is offered as part of a super or pension product, or outside super in an investment option. Each product type has different tax treatments which can also impact unit prices.

 

Regardless of the fund you’ve chosen to invest in, the unitisation process means that you own your share of the fund, and that the returns you receive are the returns of the investments within (after adjusting for fees and tax). However, if you’re unsure about unitisation or want to make changes to your super investments, consider speaking to a financial adviser who can work with you to review your super fund investments and offer suggestions to you based on your personal circumstances.

Learn more

Colonial First State is dedicated to helping our members achieve their individual retirement goals – not only through assisting with their superannuation, investment and retirement needs, but by also sharing timely market updates and other investing resources to help nurture their knowledge.

Disclaimer
Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (CFSIL) is the issuer of the FirstChoice range of super and pension products from the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557. CFSIL also issues interests in products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments. This document may include general advice but does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. The Target Market Determinations (TMD) for our financial products can be found at www.cfs.com.au/tmd and include a description of who a financial product is appropriate for. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from www.cfs.com.au or by calling us on 13 13 36.