The argument of paper based versus electronic between the supermarkets rages on but how important is...
The argument of paper based versus electronic between the supermarkets rages on but how important is it? IFAs and consumers are likely to use the tried and true paper method for the 2001 Isa season for the simple reason of familiarity, rather than technophobia.
That's not to say the electronic methods won't be used and indeed they probably will be in greater numbers than ever before; a sure sign that these services will prove to indispensable in the not too distant future.
But the fight between the two leading IFA supermarkets Fidelity's FundsNetwork and Cofunds is not necessarily the point IFAs should be concerned about, what supermarkets can do is something else.
The FSA is looking to give supermarkets a greater scope for advertising their wares to public. No longer will we just see ads that proclaim to investors that they can access the top groups through one website, now the supermarket can advertise the actual fund groups, the funds, even the specific performance figures of those they have on offer.
There has been a debate that a website that offers a limited range of funds is in fact giving some form of advice by cherry picking. It is the remit of the IFA to provide a best of breed list.
But if the relaxation of the polarisation rules in advertising are passed then there is nothing to stop a direct supermarket presenting their clients with a list of say, the top five performing European funds as part of their pitch to draw clients. The FSA says so long as the information can be backed by figures this is acceptable.
This from the same authority that says past performance figures can be misleading and that past returns have no bearing on future returns.
The regulators have often been accused of acting with the benefit of hindsight, now it looks as if they can operate using double-think: an Orwellian concept from 1984 if ever there was one.
The only recourse left to the IFA is to continue to promote the advantages of their ability to look through the figures.
Advertisements typically feature the best performance stats possible to show a fund in its best light, how widely understood is that by the general public?
Fund supermarkets are supposed to be easing the administration burden on intermediaries but the rate the FSA is going they are putting them in more direct competition than ever before with intermediaries and are actively blurring the line between advice and marketing.
A question of selectivity
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