Public Mutual, the largest private unit trust company in Malaysia, is no stranger to winning awards and accolades.
However, it carries a special meaning to be able to win multiple awards during an unprecedented year – a year largely influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Kuala Lumpur-based asset manager bagged four titles in the Asia Asset Management Best of the Best 2021 Awards: Best Retail House (Malaysia), Islamic Retail House of the Year (Malaysia), Best Sukuk Manager (Malaysia), and Best Investor Education (Malaysia).
Yeoh Kim Hong, chief executive officer of Public Mutual, attributes the company’s success to its investment philosophy, which is to invest in fundamentally-strong companies throughout various economic cycles.
“We invest in companies which have resilient earnings, strong financial positions and proven management track records. This enabled our funds to ride through periods of elevated market volatility in 2020 to deliver commendable returns for the year,” she says.
As at the end of 2020, Public Mutual’s retail assets under management grew 16.2% year-on-year to 93.8 billion ringgit (US$24 billion). Meanwhile, the company’s Islamic assets under management grew 18.1% year-on-year to 46.4 billion ringgit.
“Overall, the AUM growth in 2020 was mainly led by gains in our equity funds, coupled with inflows garnered via new fund launches. We also saw strong inflows into our bond funds in the first half of 2020 amid falling interest rates,” she says.
Meeting investors’ demand with new launches
During the year, Public Mutual launched several new funds to allow investors to capitalise on the latest investment trends. These include the Public e-Artificial Intelligence Technology Fund, Public Healthcare-Global Equity Fund, PB Greater China A-Shares Fund, PB Vietnam Global 40 Fund, Public e-Asia Pacific REITs Flexi Fund and Public e-Sukuk Fund.
Yeoh says the artificial intelligence technology and global healthcare funds allow investors to tap into the “thematic trends of artificial intelligence and increasing healthcare spending globally”, while the funds which invest in China A-shares and Vietnam enable investors to “gain exposure to the stronger economic growth potential of the Mainland China and Vietnam markets” respectively.
“On the other hand, Public e-Asia Pacific REITs Flexi Fund and Public e-Sukuk Fund were launched to allow investors to achieve higher returns from REITs and Islamic fixed income investments respectively given the low interest rate environment,” she adds.
Empowering talents, educating investors
During the pandemic, many individuals were still attracted to join the unit trust industry, as it is a good avenue for those looking for extra income or a career change. Public Mutual recorded a growth of 9.9% to 32,202 unit trust consultants (UTCs) as at end-2020, from 29,306 UTCs a year ago.
In order to ensure its UTCs are able to serve their clients efficiently, Public Mutual has provided a suite of digital platforms and tools, including Public Mutual Online (PMO), Pocket-PMO, Digital Onboarding and the e-Suitability Assessment.
“These digital platforms and tools have enabled our UTCs to run their businesses and provide their services to investors anytime and anywhere, regardless of the restrictions that have been put in place due to the pandemic,” she says.
In addition to empowering its UTCs, Public Mutual has also worked hard to increase the financial literacy levels of all Malaysians. Currently, it has a Learning Hub on its website, which provides over 40 financial planning and investment articles for all investors.
During the year, it launched MoneyKu – an initiative to help Malaysians understand topics such as inflation, diversification, and the importance of establishing a long term horizon when it comes to investing.
“Our aim is to produce more content that is not only educational and informative, but also attractive. As such, we have also started utilising the video-sharing social media platform, TikTok, to spread money management awareness among the younger generation,” she explains.
Yeoh expects global and domestic economic activities to gradually normalise towards the second half of 2021 amid the easing of movement restrictions.
“In addition, extensive fiscal stimulus measures and accommodative monetary policies undertaken by governments around the world should continue to underpin the global economic momentum,” she says.
She adds that oil prices are likely to recover with inflationary pressure remaining manageable.
Nevertheless, Yeoh feels that financial literacy is important among Malaysians. “Hence, we are doubling our efforts to increase the financial literacy levels of Malaysian households so that more Malaysians will be equipped with adequate financial knowledge and have a stronger financial footing,” she says.