The appeal of a fixed return from our capital is obvious, which is why the fixed rate bond has been such a popular choice over the years with both savers and income seekers alike. But whilst savings rates continue at their record lows, it is also understandable why some are choosing to consider moving up the risk spectrum in the hunt for higher returns. Although investments generally only offer a variable income, our most popular investment plan offers a fixed income, and so the ability to compare the two options becomes easier. Here we offer a fixed rate head to head, as we compare the pros and cons of our best selling income investment with the top fixed rate bond deals available.
Fixed rate bonds
Fixed rate bonds, or more accurately fixed term deposits, have for some time been a cornerstone of many a saver’s portfolio. Probably the main reason is that they offer a fixed rate of interest, known at outset and which does not change for the duration of the product, so you know exactly how much you will receive and when.
These products also combine a fixed term, so you know exactly how long you will receive the level of fixed income, and provided the bank remains solvent, your capital is protected and returned to you in full at the end of the fixed term. The longer the fixed term, normally the higher the fixed rate of interest offered, as compensation for tying up your money.
Fixed income investments
The income from collective investments (such as funds) invariably comes from equity dividends, bond interest or rental yields from property. Combined with the fluctuation in value of the underlying asset, be this a share, bond or property, then by its very nature the value is neither fixed nor guaranteed and so investments normally offer a variable income – and of course your capital is at risk.
Fixed income investments therefore are not common, which perhaps partly helps to explain why the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec has been our most popular income plan. The plan offers a fixed income and means that you receive your income regardless of the performance of the stock market, so the investor has the certainty of knowing at the outset exactly how much he will receive each and every year.
Cash v investment
The most important difference between the two is that with a fixed term deposit, your capital is treated as a deposit and is therefore protected and returned to you at the end of the term, subject to the bank remaining solvent. However, whilst Investec’s fixed income investment also relies on the bank remaining solvent throughout the term of your investment, the return of your capital is also dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, therefore your capital is at risk.
Whilst income remains a top priority for many and the appeal of fixed rate remains as high as ever, having a good understanding of the main differences between these two fixed rate options is often not fully explored, so here we compare the key features of each of them:
The current market leading long term fixed rate bond is the 5 Year Fixed Rate Deposit Account from State Bank of India, which offers 2.50% AER fixed. By historical standards this is one of the lowest on record. The latest issue of the Enhanced Income Plan offers an annual income of 5.04%, which is more than double that offered by the best cash-based fixed rate available.
Another important feature of fixed rate products is how often the interest is paid. State Bank of India’s fixed rate only pays interest annually, and when you set up your account, an instant access savings account is automatically opened and the interest is paid into this account on an annual basis, so there is also no option to compound your interest either. This is not particularly attractive for those looking to supplement their income with a regular fixed rate payment, or who would like the option to have the interest paid into another account.
The Enhanced Income Plan pays income monthly (0.42% per month), which can often be the most useful in terms of budgeting and is attractive when looking to supplement existing income or boost retirement income from your capital. A monthly option for cash savers is available from Aldermore Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Account which also includes the option for this to be paid into an account of your choice, but the rate is 0.25% lower than the State Bank of India product at 2.25% AER fixed.
Both the fixed term deposit and the Enhanced Income Plan have fixed terms. Historically, five year fixed rates have been the most common long term fixed rate and have offered the higher rates of interest in return for tying your money up a longer period. The Enhanced Income Plan also has a fixed term but this is one year longer at six years. Fixed terms often appeal to those who wish to plan around this and combined with a fixed rate, offer the peace of mind of knowing exactly what will be paid, when and for how long.
Premature withdrawals, additional deposits or early closures are not permitted during the term of the State Bank of India fixed term deposit. The Enhanced Income Plan does include the option to withdraw your money early, however the investment is designed to be held for the full term and early withdrawal or closure could result in you getting back more or less than you originally invested, depending on how long your investment has been running and market conditions at the time
State Bank of India’s 5 Year Fixed Term Deposit is a non-ISA fixed rate and so is not available as a Cash ISA whilst the Investec plan is available as both an ISA and non-ISA, whilst it also accepts ISA transfers. If you are someone who would otherwise pay basic rate income tax on some or all of the interest received from their capital, by using your ISA allowance you could be up to 20% better off, with greater tax savings for higher rate tax payers.
Market leading five year fixed rate Cash ISAs are only offering 2.0% AER, and so by comparison, the Investec plan offers an even higher increase to your fixed income in return for putting your capital at risk.
Treatment of capital
Since the income from both of these products is fixed for the term of the plan, their main difference is the treatment of your initial capital. The fixed term deposit is capital protected, which means that your initial capital is returned in full at the end of the fixed term (subject to credit risk which is covered below), whilst the Enhanced Income Plan puts your initial capital at risk.
Unlike most income investments, the Enhanced Income Plan does include some capital protection from a falling stock market. This is commonly known as conditional capital protection and means that the return of your initial capital is conditional on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index and will be returned in full at the end of the six year term, provided the FTSE does not fall by more than 50%. If it does fall below 50%, and also finishes the fixed term lower than its value at the start of the plan, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for every 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.
Repayment of your capital at the end of a fixed term deposit is reliant on the bank being solvent at the time the capital repayment becomes due, whilst an investment into the Enhanced Income Plan is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc, which means its ability to meet and repay their financial obligations is equally an important consideration. Both of these products therefore contain counterparty credit risk, which means that in the event of the bank going into liquidation, you could lose any future returns as well as some or all of your initial capital.
Credit ratings and agencies
One accepted method of determining credit worthiness of a company is to look at credit ratings that are issued and regularly reviewed by independent companies known as ratings agencies. Fitch is a leading credit agency and as at 1st May 2016, Investec Bank has a BBB rating and the State Bank of India has a BBB- rating, both with a stable outlook. The ‘BBB’ rating signifies both institutions are considered to have a good credit quality with low expectation of failure to repay its debts whilst the ‘-‘ denotes being at the lower end of this particular rating grade. A stable outlook indicates the rating is not likely to change in the short to medium term (around 6 months to 2 years).
Provided the deposit taker offering the fixed rate bond has a UK banking licence, your initial capital is normally eligible to be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme which covers potential deposit claims up to a maximum of £75,000 per person, per institution. The Enhanced Income Plan is not a deposit so it would not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default alone.
Risk v reward
The principle of risk v reward means that the search for higher income returns often leads us to consider putting our capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing Investec’s fixed income investment is to compare the best fixed term deposit rates on offer over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are comfortable with the risk to your capital in order to receive a higher fixed return. As detailed above, by accepting risk to your capital the Investec plan offers just over double the market leading fixed term deposit, with a higher increase when compared with leading fixed rate Cash ISAs. The risk is that is if the FTSE falls by more than 50%, you could lose some or all of your initial investment.
Fair Investment conclusion
Whatever fixed rate option is undertaken, it is imperative that the risks of each are fully considered and understood. Whether this is inflation risk, risk of capital loss or credit risk, it should always be remembered that it is the income and capital loss/rise combined that produce your overall return.
Commenting on the cash versus investment fixed rate options, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company, said: “Whilst fixed term deposits offer the peace of mind of a safe return of our initial capital, we cannot also escape the fact that the current rates on offer are some of the lowest on record. But when making a comparison between a cash product and an investment, we must always bear in mind that one offers capital protection, whilst the other puts your capital at risk.”
He continued, “With fixed deposit rates as they are, the pressure is clearly on savers to think long and hard about what to do with their money, and yet whilst the high level of fixed income and the monthly payment frequency are attractive features of the fixed income investment, before considering any investment it is important to understand the balance of risk v reward. The decision is therefore whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk combined with the terms of the conditional capital protection offered, in return for the higher fixed returns.”
The Investec Enhanced Income Plan is now available for ISAs, ISA transfers and non-ISA investments, with a minimum investment of £3,000. Click here to find out more »
The State Bank of India 5 Year Fixed Term Deposit is now available as a deposit only (non-ISA), with a minimum deposit of £10,000. Click here to find out more »
No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. Fair Investment Company does not offer advice and any investment transacted through us in on a non-advised basis. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.
The Investec Enhanced Income Plan is a structured investment plan which is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index or any shares listed within the Index is not a guide to their future performance.
Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.
AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.