Malaysian investors rank the highest in the ASEAN region for their strong affinity towards mutual funds or unit trust fund investments, according to a survey by Manulife Investor Sentiment Index (Manulife ISI).

The survey was conducted between mid-December 2012 and late January this year and also showed the financial priority of most Malaysian investors to be “saving for a rainy day,” while their regional counterparts preferred to save for retirement instead.

The survey also indicated that although Malaysian investors were the most optimistic in the region, they remain conservative, with a high preference towards cash as compared to riskier investment vehicles like stocks and equities.

Said the survey, “Yet, there exists the concern that Malaysian investors who have a high affinity towards holding cash and fixed income may see the value of their savings erode. This may result in low purchasing power in years to come in view of inflation.”

Mark O’Dell, Group Chief Executive Officer of Manulife Holding Bhd said Malaysian investors had a penchant for insurance products that provide a steady income stream, in addition to the investments in their own home and having cash.

“Being cash-rich, they have the means to invest but need to tap into the other investments opportunities that the Malaysian market has to offer, and with a higher growth potential or capital appreciation,” he said at a media briefing on the launch of the Manulife ISI.

According to Mark, savings is the first step of any money management strategy, but investment management is the key to Malaysians making their money work for them. “Thirty-three per cent of Malaysian investors have no plans to start retirement planning as they feel the balance held in their accounts will fund it,” he said.

According to Mark, 92 per cent of Malaysians do not engage the services of a financial planner.

Manulife’s Investor Sentiment Index is a proprietary survey that measures and tracks investors’ views across seven markets in the region on their attitudes towards key asset classes and investment vehicles.