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Have you been sitting on the fence as to whether you should switch KiwiSaver providers or not? Or maybe you’ve recently heard of Kernel and you’re wondering whether the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan is suitable for you?

Look no further because we’ll be answering all those questions.

Who is the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan for exactly?

The Kernel KiwiSaver Plan is suitable for investors across many investment horizons. Whether you’ve just joined the workforce or have used your KiwiSaver balance to purchase your first home and have 30+ years until retirement, or you’re in your early 50s inching closer to retirement. The Kernel KiwiSaver Plan can be adapted to suit your needs.

Keep it simple with a diversified fund

Our diversified funds can be a great starting point for many Kiwis. If you’re new to Kernel or are looking for a catch-all, well diversified fund there are fund options to suit short, medium, and long-term timeframes.

Our diversified funds are as follows:

  • Kernel High Growth Fund – Suitable for those working towards long-term goals 5+ years away. The fund holds 98%+ equities.

  • Kernel Balanced Fund – Suitable for those working towards medium-term goals 3+ years away. The fund targets an asset allocation of 60% equities and 40% cash and bonds.

  • Kernel Cash Plus Fund - Suitable for those working towards short-term goals within 3 years. The fund holds a mix of cash, bonds, fixed income assets and other cash equivalents.

Depending on your personal preference, one of these funds can be all you need. They can also be a great way to keep your KiwiSaver account nice and simple.

Digging into the details, here is a breakdown of each fund.

The Kernel High Growth Fund

Unlike the majority of KiwiSaver providers in the market, Kernel offers a High Growth Fund comprised of 98+% holdings in equities. Comparatively, most other providers have 20 – 25% of their growth funds in non-growth assets such as bonds and/or cash.

Being primarily growth assets, the Kernel High Growth Fund can be more susceptible to short-term fluctuations, yet it can have greater long-term growth potential.

The single fund is a combination of Kernel’s seven existing funds:
The Global ESG Fund, Global 100 (NZD Hedged) Fund, NZ 20 Fund, NZ Small & Mid Cap Opportunities Fund, Global Infrastructure Fund, Global Green Property Fund and the Kernel Cash Plus Fund. The Corresponding target proportions are shown in the table below:


Target Proportions

Global ESG Fund


Global 100 (NZD Hedged) Fund


NZ 20 Fund


NZ Small & Mid Cap Opportunities Fund


Global Infrastructure (NZD Hedged) Fund


Global Green Property Fund


Kernel Cash Plus Fund


This target asset allocation reflects both the industry norm and Kernel’s views on:

  • The relative importance and benefits of domestic investments, to an everyday investor,

  • The low correlation between NZ equities and other asset classes (global equities, global listed real estate and global listed infrastructure), and;

  • The benefits of listed infrastructure and listed real estate in a mixed-asset portfolio.

We review this annually but don’t expect or believe in large asset allocation shifts.

The Kernel Balanced Fund

The Kernel Balanced Fund is designed to provide investors with a diversified exposure to primarily growth assets, with some allocation to income assets.

For those with medium time horizons (3-5 years), the key benefit gained by adding income assets is an intention to reduce volatility and stabilise performance. However, this may come at the expense of long term expected returns.

A breakdown of the Kernel Balanced Fund

The fund targets a 60/40 split between growth assets and income assets, respectively. The 60% growth asset allocation is invested in the Kernel High Growth Fund. Whereas the 40% income asset allocation is a mix of cash, bonds, and cash equivalent assets.

Unlike many of our other funds which systematically aim to track an index, the income asset portion of this fund is actively managed by our Portfolio Manager. Below are the corresponding weightings across its investments:

Fund/ Asset Class

Target Proportions

International fixed interest


NZ Fixed interest


Kernel Cash Plus Fund


Global ESG Fund


Global 100 (NZD Hedged) Fund


NZ 20 Fund


NZ Small & Mid Cap Opportunities Fund


Global Infrastructure (NZD Hedged) Fund


Global Green Property Fund


The Kernel Cash Plus Fund

This fund is a portfolio of cash and cash equivalent investments. These investments include assets such as on-call saving accounts at banks, term deposits, short-dated bonds (usually with less than a year to maturity) and other fixed-income assets typically with large organisations (such as NZ Banks, IRD, Spark, Fonterra, Genesis, etc.).

While cash and cash equivalent assets offer a lower expected rate of return, they also minimise the risk of the value of your money declining. When it comes to reaching your short-term goals, the protection of your investment balance is often a more important feature than a chance of greater growth. 

This fund may be suitable for investors who are working towards their short-term goals in the next 3 years, such as a first home purchase.

A breakdown of the Kernel Cash Plus Fund

The Kernel Cash Plus Fund is also actively managed by our Portfolio Manager. The graph below shows how your money is invested across different issuers, asset types and credit quality.

All data as at 31 March 2024

Credit quality

This shows the credit rating of the fund’s holdings, which is measured by a credit rating scale. To be considered “investment-grade” the asset will need a minimum credit rating of BBB as assessed by one of the three major global credit ratings agencies: S&P, Fitch or Moodys.

The rating reflects the assessed risk, with AA being rated higher quality than A and A being higher than BBB, all the way to C.

Assets rated BBB or better are perceived to have a relatively low risk of not paying back their obligations.

Issuer Composition

This shows the allocation of the portfolio by the type of issuer. An issuer is an entity that develops, registers and sells securities, such as bonds, to finance its operations (e.g., Central and local government, NZ banks and large corporations).

Portfolio Composition

This shows the allocation of the portfolio by type of instrument. An instrument is a real or virtual document representing a legal agreement involving any kind of monetary value.

Choose to customise your KiwiSaver account

If you’re a seasoned investor who is looking for a more customised option, you can choose to create a custom Kernel KiwiSaver Plan using a mixture of the Kernel funds.

With our range of 19 funds, you can shape your plan to be in favour of specific asset types, themes, or sectors.

This option can be especially suitable for those with an interest in sustainability. Customising your KiwiSaver account lets you upweight the asset allocation to ESG and climate-friendly investments (such as the Global ESG Fund).

What about the fees?

With the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan, the only fee you pay is the fund’s management fee, regardless of your balance.

Our annual fund management fee is 0.25% for all our core available in the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan funds except our three specialty funds - S&P Kensho Moonshots Innovation, S&P Kensho Electric Vehicle Innovation and S&P Global Clean Energy – where the annual management fee is 0.45%.

Please note: the $5 monthly member fee doesn’t apply to the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan.

How does this work in practice?

When a KiwiSaver balance of $10,000 is invested in one core fund (or any mix of core funds), an annual management fee of 0.25%, or $25 per year, will be incurred. 

For a KiwiSaver balance of $30,000, the same management fee is equivalent to $75 per year.

The fees paid are all-inclusive.

If you were to invest your KiwiSaver balance of $10,000 into a mix of our core and specialty funds, the fees will vary depending on the fund you invested in.

So, let’s say the $10,000 KiwiSaver balance was split 50/50 between two funds – the Global 100 Fund and the S&P Global Clean Energy Fund. Meaning $5,000 invested in each.

The annual management fee charged on $5,000 invested in the Global 100 Fund would be 0.25%, while the annual management fee charged on the S&P Global Clean Energy Fund would be 0.45%.

This would therefore equate to:

It’s important to note that as the share markets move, your investment balance will too and fees are deducted in daily increments within the fund.

While you get charged a fixed percentage fee, the end dollar cost will vary as your investment balance changes. The examples above are simplified to give the context of the cost.

Be mindful of cost efficiencies

It's important to keep an eye on the cost efficiency of your KiwiSaver account – hidden costs such as those generated from frequent buying and selling decisions in actively managed funds.

As we follow an index investing strategy with most of our funds, we’re able to reduce our costs and improve our cost efficiencies. You can read more here.

Whilst both fees and cost efficiencies related to investment funds and KiwiSaver are important to consider, we’re also advocates for ensuring you’re choosing investment options based on their merits as well. Plus of course, they align with your investment horizon and financial goals.

I’m sold! How do I sign up for the Kernel KiwiSaver Plan?

The Kernel KiwiSaver Plan is available for you to join or transfer your KiwiSaver balance to.

Simply set up a Kernel account here and ensure you have fully verified your account. Then navigate to the ‘KiwiSaver’ tab within your dashboard where you can opt to transfer your KiwiSaver balance over to Kernel.

Joining KiwiSaver for the first time? Read more about getting set up here.

Chi Nguyen

Chi Nguyen

Research Analyst



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Indices provided by: S&P Dow Jones Indices