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Dynamic unitholders, exercise your rights

Investors urged to shoot down fee hike

Have you ever received a voting proxy regarding your mutual fund's annual meeting, and the issues to be voted upon? If you have, I'd bet that most of you simply filed it under 'B' for "blue box" or sent it on a trip through your paper shredder. If you hold Dynamic Mutual funds, you will be getting a voting package - and it's one that deserves your attention. Instead of tossing it, I am urging you to exercise your voting rights. Sure, most issues that require a vote are very standard. However, on June 21, 2002 Dynamic unitholders will be asked to vote on an issue that directly affects their bottom lines.

The proposal
Dynamic Mutual Funds recently announced that unitholders will vote on June 21, 2002 on a proposed fee change to some of its funds that currently charge performance fees. In summary, Dynamic is proposing to:

  • reduce the maximum performance fee by 0.25% and 0.15% on a selected list of trust and corporate class funds, respectively; and
  • increase the maximum MER by the same amount on the same funds.

Performance fees
Dynamic charges performance fees on its Power family of funds and many of its specialty offerings. Performance fees on Dynamic funds, if applicable, are capped at 3 per cent per year, and are calculated as:

  • 10% x (Fund Calendar Return % - Index Calendar Return %) x (average month-end assets)

The performance fee can add as much as 2.25 to 3 per cent annually onto base management expense ratios (MERs), depending on the fund. To put this in perspective, a fund would have to outperform its index by 22.5 to 30 percentage points in a year in order to hit the performance fee cap. In other words, if the TSE 300 returns 10 per cent in a year, the Dynamic Power Canadian Growth fund would have to earn at least 40 per cent that year, net of its MER, for it to earn a performance fee of 3 per cent.

Such outperformance levels by a stock fund - not to mention a bond or balanced fund - are quite rare and not likely to be attained with any regularity. Since the maximum performance fee isn't likely to be reached anyway, reducing the ceiling will probably go unnoticed.

(It is important, however, to give credit where it's due. The manner in which Dynamic's performance fee is calculated is very fair. The fee is cumulative, which means that if the fund trailed its benchmark index in a given year, it must make up that shortfall before accruing any performance fee. Also, no performance fee is payable in a year where both the fund and its index lose money. This is in sharp contrast to performance fees of many other funds, which will charge a performance fee in a negative year, as long as the fund loses less than the index.)

Hence, it is my opinion that affected Dynamic unitholders will not realize any meaningful savings, if any at all, resulting from the reduction of the performance fee cap.

Raising the MER cap
A MER cap is only meaningful when a fund is not paying all of its own costs. In other words, sometimes a fund sponsor (like Dynamic) will absorb some of its funds' operating costs. They do so at their discretion and can stop any time. However, in so doing, some firms also write into their fund's prospectus that the MER will not rise above a specified cap. This is what Dynamic has done, which is why they now must ask unitholders to vote to lift the cap.

The amount of fees waived/absorbed by Dynamic on the Power funds, according to data contained in the December 31, 2001 semi-annual reports are as follows (expressed as an annual percentage of average daily fund assets):

  • Dynamic Power Canadian Growth - 0.35%
  • Dynamic Power American Growth - 0.24%
  • Dynamic Power Bond - 0.48%
  • Dynamic Power Balanced - 0.34%

In dollars, Dynamic picked up the tab on nearly $1.5 million for unitholders of the above funds during the second half of last year.

Since the Power funds (and likely many of the other affected funds) actually incurred expenses higher than the maximum MER, it seems reasonable to conclude that raising the MER cap will surely result in higher fees over the next year.

Fee hike
To sum this up, Dynamic's proposed decrease in the maximum performance fee results in little or no benefit. On the other hand, lifting those same funds ' MER caps will probably result in an immediate fee hike.

It should be crystal clear at this point that the proposal that Dynamic is putting forward basically amounts to a fee increase for most (and perhaps all) of the funds mentioned in the press release.

In my view, the reduction of the maximum performance fee is nothing more than a token gesture aimed at reducing the negative connotation of an otherwise outright increase in fees.

Exercise your rights
The last time Dynamic tabled a similar proposal was back in the fall of 2000. Actually, I wrote about that proposal in this space, but the fund merger and associated fee increase was passed.

Don't let history repeat itself. Exercise your unitholder rights. It is in the collective best interests of affected Dynamic unitholders to shoot down this proposal. After all, it is your money.

Dan Hallett, CFA, CFP is the President of Dan Hallett and Associates Inc., an independent investment research firm based in Windsor, Ontario. Dan can be reached at


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