Published in the NZ Herald, October 2022
In volatile times consistent investment returns are hard to find. That can be difficult for New Zealanders who rely on returns from their investments to live the life they’ve planned.
As equity markets continue to experience volatility not all of the news is bad. The annualised pre-tax return on the First Mortgage Trust Group Investment Fund for the quarter ending 30 September 2022 is sitting at 5.59% and has grown steadily throughout this year.
After 26 years in business, First Mortgage Trust (FMT) has never lost a cent of investors’ money, says Paul Bendall, FMT chief executive. While no investment is without risk, FMT’s loan arrears currently are less than 1% of the loan book. “Even the banks would be proud to have loan arrears like that,” says Bendall.
That’s because investors’ money is FMT’s number one focus. “My predecessor impressed on me that investors come first, the staff a close second, and shareholder returns look after themselves if you do 1 and 2 really well,” he says.
FMT is different from a traditional finance company. It’s a fund manager first. Investors’ money is held in the fund at arm’s length and the fund is supervised by Trustee Executors. “Our trust structure with independent oversight gives our investors confidence that their money is being managed well,” says Bendall.
The careful approach extends into many other aspects of the business model. For example, the fund only lends on first mortgages.
Next, the loan-to-value-ratios (LVR) are capped at 75% on residential property and 67% on commercial property. The average LVR is 51% currently, meaning the borrower requires significant equity before FMT will lend to them.
Another point of difference in FMT’s conservative investment strategy is that for every single loan each property is independently inspected to understand the deal. A valuer’s report isn’t enough. “We are selective in where and who we lend to, and we have a rigorous process,” says Bendall.
Non-bank-lenders such as FMT often pick up deals turned down by banks because of rigid criteria, not risk. In fact, some of those loans can be very low risk. It’s a win/win for FMT, says Bendall.
Thanks to this conservative approach, coupled with increased returns for each quarter of 2022, FMT investor numbers are growing strongly, and largely by word of mouth. FMT now has more than $1.5bn of funds under management and more than six thousand investors.
First Mortgage Trust is the issuer of the First Mortgage Trust Group Investment Fund and the First Mortgage PIE Trust, and is not a registered bank. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Returns are not guaranteed. Product Disclosure Statements are available at fmt.co.nz
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