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Investors’ continuing love affair with cash could be leading them towards heartbreak if they don’t diversify, says Mr David Bryant, head of Australian Unity Investments.

Investors’ continuing love affair with cash could be leading them towards heartbreak if they don’t diversify, says Mr David Bryant, head of Australian Unity Investments.

“While all available research shows that investors have been focused on cash as the best safe haven to protect capital, falling interest rates are making such a strategy increasingly unsound.

“Having some investment in cash products such as term deposits may be sensible for some investors, but it should always be as part of a balanced diversification strategy.

“Falling interest rates and inflation combine to reduce both the value of capital and income – exactly what investors seeking a ‘safe haven’ are trying to avoid,” he said.

Mr Bryant said that an urgent rethink is needed by many investors to redefine what a ‘safe haven’ means to them and what the cost might be of the various options, as well as the opportunities other asset classes offer.

“Now is not a good time to be over-invested in cash products.  They might offer surety of capital being repaid on a due date but the cost can be considerable, and this together with other factors shouldn’t be ignored by investors.

“Ease of access, income stability, inflation protection, capital growth as well as security, can all be important to investors depending on their circumstances and financial needs,” he said.

Mr Bryant says that investors need to understand circumstances change and at the moment an over-cautious approach – such as having all their savings in term deposits – now comes with a major opportunity cost.

“For example, fixed interest funds have performed better than term deposits in the last four years (since the flight to cash started in earnest) and equities have given better yields than term deposits over the same period, particularly for investors on higher tax rates.

“Indeed, an investor who put some of their wealth in bank shares in June 2008 rather than depositing all their money in interest-bearing term accounts, would have received excellent yield as well as capital growth.

“For example, if an investor had deposited $10,000 in a one-year term deposit in June 2008, and reinvested maturity proceeds along the way, this would have increased in value to $12,519 by June 2012. However, if an investor bought $10,000 of CBA shares in June 2008 it would be worth $18,819 including franking credits, in June 2012 – and we have seen even more increases in sharemarket value in the last couple of months.”

Mr Bryant added that diversification is always the best approach no matter what the economic situation is.

“There is currently a notable degree of optimism in the main growth asset classes that investors should factor into any portfolio rebalancing.

“While there is still volatility in equity markets, and although markets are still experiencing frequent falls, there appears to be the beginning of an underlying trend upwards,” he said.

“In addition, property markets appear to be shaking off the stagnancy of recent years as an inability to satisfy future demand is becoming apparent in some sectors, for example office, healthcare and retirement living.

“Investors who have remained in cash over the last several years now need to reassess their priorities as they face falling returns coupled with an erosion of capital value.

“Moving to a more diversified investment approach at the moment is likely to provide the access, income stability, protection and capital growth that have become the priorities for many investors,” Mr Bryant said.

Australian Unity Investments is the funds management arm of Australian Unity – a national healthcare, financial services and retirement living organisation.  A mutual organisation operating for over 170 years, Australian Unity provides services to some 620,000 Australians, including 320,000 members.

Australian Unity Investments has over $12.1 billion in funds under management (as at 31 July 2012), and offers a range of investment funds in domestic and international equities, fixed interest, mortgages and property.  Its investment approach is to use its established in-house expertise in property and mortgages while also forming joint ventures and strategic alliances with boutique asset managers.

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 For more information please contact:

David Bryant – Phone: 03 8682 4401

23 August 2012