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Cerulli: Ignorance about mutual funds widespread in Asia

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Americans, it seems, are not alone in being woefully uninformed about investment topics. A knowledge gap exists too among retail investors in Asia.

According to a new report of Cerulli Associates, a “large swathe of investors” in the Asia-Pacific region don’t know anything about mutual funds. Upshot: low product adoption.

These findings appear in the fourth quarter issue of, “The Cerulli Edge: Asia-Pacific Edition.” The survey draws on responses from almost 4,000 retail investors in four countries — China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore — and is being published in conjunction with Cerulli’s inaugural Asian Investor Segmentation report.

The lack of knowledge about mutual funds is evident in the products’ low penetration in the four countries. As an investment option, mutual funds constitute only about 10 percent of the Asian investors’ financial holdings.

More than 4 in 10 (43 percent) of mass retail investors in Asia are not investing in mutual funds because they don’t know about the products, the research shows. This compares to 19 percent of high net worth investors generally.

“Cerulli believes this suggests that fund managers and distributors have been more effective at educating and disseminating investment information and knowledge to their wealthier clients, and less so to investors in the lower wealth tiers,” the report states. “It also suggests that investment information is more accessible and intimate at higher wealth tiers, as financial advice becomes more proactive.”

Significant percentages of Asian retail investors (42.9 percent) also do not engage a professional financial advisor. This is true not only in the bottom tier (those with less than $100,000 in investable assets), but also among mass affluent investors ($100,000-$1 million in investable assets) and the high net worth ($1 million or more).

Why are so many Asian investors going without professional financial advice? The key reason, Cerulli writes, is an unwillingness to pay for it.


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