Published September 2019

Anyone who has tried knows it’s hard to stay committed to new year goals. The key to sticking to them over time is to take a simple, manageable approach. Investing offshore is no different.

If you’ve made the decision to invest some of your savings internationally, it’s easier to achieve your financial goals if you stay committed. And it’s easier to stay committed if you choose a multi-asset fund that invests across different asset classes. This approach provides the comfort of knowing that you have tasked your fund manager with the responsibility of repositioning the portfolio as circumstances change.

Here are a few pointers to consider when it comes to allocating some of your assets to international investments. 

Investing offshore is not a single event, it’s a journey

Closely associated with weak domestic confidence this year has been the debate about the appropriate allocation to international assets. With much better returns from global markets – especially US equities – over the past decade, you often hear the argument that you should sell all your local investments and only invest offshore. This is a sentiment-driven view that assumes that the future will play out exactly as the most recent past. A more reasoned response is to implement a well-considered long-term investment programme, informed by your own circumstances, that appropriately diversifies your risks across jurisdictions, geographies, sectors and companies.

It’s easier to achieve your desired result if you remain committed

The more time you give your investment to grow, the more likely you are to do well as a result of both market outcomes and the value that can be added through active management. However, many South African investors do not invest for long enough to experience the full benefit of staying the course in their long-term investment programme. The average unit trust investor holds their investment for less than the recommended five-year minimum investment period before withdrawing. This is largely due to our instinctive urge to ‘act’ in response to recent market or fund outcomes. Constantly selling the most recent losers and buying the most recent winners is a near-certain way to achieve less than optimal results. 

It’s easier to remain committed if you invest in a multi-asset fund

Investors who make their own asset allocation decisions may find that it is difficult to make consistently good decisions over time. They may be tempted to switch into or out of an asset class at the wrong time for emotional reasons. 

Good asset allocation often requires you to do the opposite, as you tend to achieve better results when you sell after a period of above-average returns (as prices have gone up) and buy after a period of below-average returns (and prices have fallen). Yet it is a skill that requires considerable experience and discipline. So, it makes sense to leave it to the professionals who spend every day focused on identifying the best long-term opportunities available in global markets.

By giving your fund manager a broader mandate by way of a multi-asset fund, they also have more tools at their disposal with which to achieve your desired result. 

There will be good years and bad years, and no one knows the sequence

Local and global risk assets performed poorly in 2018, with local equities down 8.5% in rands, while global equities returned 5.0% in rands (-9.4% in US dollars).

Conversely, 2019 has been a good year for risk assets, with local equities up 9.2% in rands and global equities up 25.9% in rands (up 22.9% in US dollars) for the year to date. Yet many investors continued to invest conservatively, as though they were still experiencing 2018 returns, thereby missing out on the more recent strong returns from both local and global equities.

But it isn’t advisable to try to time the markets or switch between asset classes to capture returns in the short term. The good news is that you don’t have to implement regular extreme portfolio movements to get the best results. When investing in a multi-asset fund, you may not capture all of the market upside in any given year, but over time, the highs and lows smooth, and you benefit from positive returns across asset classes while spreading the risk of possible underperformance in any one asset class. The smoother path makes it easier for you to stay the course over the long term.

Two decades of disciplined, multi-asset investing

We offer three multi-asset funds for investors who want more international exposure as part of their long-term investment programmes. The funds have track records ranging between 10 and 20 years and allocate across all or most assets to international investments, while remaining easy to use and access, as they are established in South Africa. 

To find out which of our multi-asset funds may be suited to you, listen to this podcast.

The information contained in this article is not based on the individual financial needs of any specific investor. To find out more, speak to your financial adviser. 

Coronation is an authorised financial services provider.