The current Isa season came with a backdrop of two years of bear markets plus the technology crash o...
The current Isa season came with a backdrop of two years of bear markets plus the technology crash of 2000. While most investors view the market as reasonable value or cheap, there is also a strong feeling that their existing investments have enough exposure to the market if it should turn round and show good share price increases.
Investors now face a dilemma. Should they use their Isa allowance to invest in a market where they think they are probably exposed enough? Or should they just miss this year's Isa allowance?
Sales of Isas so far this year have been patchy at best and could be more accurately described as fragile. The historically main period of the Isa season (the first three months of the year) have struggled to shake off shabby sales in December. We are convinced that many of the statistics are distorted by the slow disclosure of repurchases and optimistic disclosure of new sales. The IMA figures will eventually show the true increment in investment funds that shock most pundits.
I suspect the real truth is there has been no Isa season king this year but a few princes instead. Perhaps the most creditable performance has been by New Star, which, from a standing start, is one of the five or six contenders for this year's top Isa provider.
However, it is almost certain that Fidelity has won this year's prize, not through the sale of any one fund but because it is selling good quantities of units in American, Special Situations, Managed International, Moneybuilder, American Special Situations, Extra Income, Wealthbuilder, International and their European fund (most other groups can only look enviously at their strength in depth).
Fidelity has also benefited from being at the forefront of the direct marketing effort with brokers who have opted to use the Funds Network supermarket.
There appears to be only three other kids on the block and two of them are new kids ' ABN Amro and Credit Suisse. This is a remarkable achievement in the case of Credit Suisse and is purely on the back of one of the industry's most charismatic and able fund managers, namely Bill Mott.
Finally, there is the only other contender which should be awarded full marks for proving most pundits wrong that the Duffield raid on key personnel has not affected resolve. We believe Jupiter is the only other contender for top five Isa sales status and its visibility, especially in the national press, has once again kept investor interest in the company alive.
There have been a few very minor bright sparks elsewhere. The life companies are well represented, with Standard Life, Royal & SunAlliance and Norwich Union, who all seem to be selling their high-income products quite strongly. The banks are represented by HSBC where Tim Russell's income fund is selling remarkably well.
Elsewhere, two boutiques ' if they don't mind me calling them that ' namely Liontrust and Old Mutual seem to be improving their market share and Artemis also figures, once again boasting a strong advertising campaign.
The big losers appear to be Aberdeen, Invesco Perpetual and Threadneedle, despite their excellent, across the board, investment performances and while M&G claims its high income funds are selling well, this is a very seriously contested part of the market with many other funds sharing the spoils.
Peter Hargreaves, Hargreaves Lansdown
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