Archive for the ‘Income investments’ Category

Investment Focus: Investec FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan

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Our Investment Focus articles are designed to give new and existing customers a more detailed overview of a selection of income and growth investment plans, covering both the risks and the rewards. So whilst the income yields from the FTSE 100 remain under pressure, what better way to start 2017 than to review our best selling income plan, offering a high level of fixed monthly income. Some of you may be familiar with the plan, some of you may even have invested or reinvested into the plan, which remains popular year after year with a wide range of income seekers.

In a nutshell

Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan is a relatively straightforward plan to understand. It pays a fixed rate of income, every month, for a fixed term. Therefore, your income is paid regardless of what happens to the stock market. The ‘FTSE 100’ in the plan title refers to what happens to your original investment, with your initial capital returned at the end of the term unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50% during the plan term. If it does, and also finishes below its starting value, you will lose 1% for each 1% fall in the Index. This plan therefore puts your capital at risk.

What is driving customers?

This is our best-selling income investment plan. Whether you are working and need to supplement your earnings, or retired and looking at ways to supplement your pension or savings income, the need for income is one of the most common demands put on our capital. Traditional investment funds only tend to offer a variable income, whilst also putting your capital at risk on a daily basis. Rather uniquely in the income investment space, this plan combines a fixed income with some degree of capital protection.

Where have all the fixed rates gone?

In contrast to the high levels of the FTSE 100 Index we have experienced recently, fixed savings rates are still at record lows. With no realistic prospect of any sudden sharp increases, let alone a return to the 4%+ rates that were around five years ago, whatever your situation the ability to meet income needs remains a very real challenge. But against this backdrop of intense pressure on savers, and whilst stock market conditions perhaps raise more questions than they do answers, this investment from Investec has remained a top seller with income seekers. So let’s take a look at its main features…

Fixed income

With savings rates at such low levels, the prospect of a high fixed income is likely to be attractive to a wide range of income seekers. Unusual for an investment, which normally pay a variable income dependent on the performance of the underlying asset, this plan pays a fixed income regardless of the performance of the stock market. The current issue of the plan is paying 5.04% p.a. fixed, which means that the investor has the certainty of knowing at the outset exactly how much they will receive each and every year.

Monthly payments

Another popular feature is the monthly payment frequency since this is the most useful in terms of budgeting, especially when many UK equity income funds only offer twice yearly or quarterly payments. Therefore, not only does the investment provide a high level of fixed income, but it also pays this on a monthly basis, which could be an important feature when looking to supplement existing income. At 5.04% p.a. on offer from the latest issue, this equates to 0.42% paid each and every month for the entire term of the plan.

Fixed term

The Enhanced Income Plan has a fixed term of six years and although you do have the option to withdraw your money early (and in this respect is not dissimilar to an investment fund), the plan is designed to be held for the full term and early withdrawal could result in you getting back less (or more) than you invested.

Many fixed rate savers will be used to a fixed term whilst this feature should also appeal to investors who wish to plan around this accordingly. Combined with a fixed and regular level of income, this also means that full plan terms are known at the outset and so investors can consider more clearly the risk versus reward prior to investing their capital.

Some capital protection from a falling market

The Enhanced Income Plan contains what is known as conditional capital protection, which means that the return of your initial investment is conditional on the FTSE 100 Index not falling by more than 50% below its value at the start of the plan. If the FTSE stays above this 50% barrier throughout the plan term, you will receive a full return of your original investment when the plan ends. However, if it falls below this level, and is also below its starting value at the end of the six year term, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for every 1% fall. Therefore this plan puts your capital at risk and you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

The use of averaging

When calculating the final level of the FTSE for the purposes of comparing it with its value at the start of the plan, the plan takes the average of the closing levels of the Index on each business day during the last 6 months of the plan term. The use of averaging can reduce the adverse effects of a falling market or sudden market falls whilst it can also reduce the benefits of an increasing market or sudden increases in the market during the last six months of the plan.

Credit ratings and agencies

This plan is a structured investment and so unlike investing in a fund where you would buy units at the prevailing price on the date of purchase, your initial capital is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc. These securities are structured in a way so that they aim to provide the fixed income and the return of capital as described above, and means that Investec Bank plc’s ability to meet their financial obligations becomes an important investment consideration. If the bank fails or becomes insolvent, this could affect both the payment of any future income, as well as the return of your original investment and you would not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default alone.

Fitch is one of the main global credit rating agencies and has awarded Investec Bank plc a credit rating of BBB with a stable outlook (awarded 3rd October 2016). The ‘BBB’ rating denotes a good credit quality and indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and that Investec Bank plc’s capacity for payment of its financial commitments is considered to be adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity. The stable outlook indicates that the rating is not expected to change in the short to medium term, i.e. in the next 6 months to 2 years.

Investec Bank plc profile

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with its main operations in the UK and South Africa. Established in 1974, they currently employ around 9,000 people and as at 31st March 2016, look after £121.7 billion of customer assets. They provide a range of financial products and services and specialise in a number of areas, particularly within the banking sector. Their banking operation looks after £24.0 billion of customer deposits and they are also a market leading provider of investment plans and structured deposits in the UK.

Risk v reward

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for potentially higher returns leads us to consider putting our capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing your investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit (capital protected) over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are comfortable with the risk to capital you are taking in order to receive the opportunity for a higher return.

Our leading five year fixed rate bond is currently offering 2.01%, and so by accepting risk to your capital, you are increasing your fixed return by 3.03% a year (since the fixed income from this investment is 5.04% p.a.). With the savings market failing to meet the need for higher income, the decision is whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk and the conditional capital protection offered, in order to achieve the higher return.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the plan, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company Oliver Roylance-Smith said: “One of the main attractions with the Enhanced Income Plan is the ability for potential investors to consider its risk versus reward prior to investing. The plan pays a fixed income, each month, for a fixed term – so you know exactly what you will receive, when, and for how long – whilst you get your capital back at the end of the term unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 50%.“

He continued: “Compared to other income investments, this defined return for a defined level of risk could be attractive whilst the monthly income and fixed income features are often high up on the list of priorities for income seekers.”

The plan is open for new ISA investments up to the £15,240 allowance, Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers, as well as non-ISA investments. The minimum investment is £3,000.

Click for more information about the Investec FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan »

 

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. 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.

This investment does not include the same security of capital that is afforded to a deposit account. Your capital is at risk.

Tax treatment of ISAs 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.

This is a structured investment plan that 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 is not a guide to its future performance.

Fixed rate bond holders face significant falls: our roundup of the latest fixed rate options

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Last updated: 17/01/2017

For those bond holders with maturing accounts, many are facing significant falls in the level of returns on offer when comparing their maturing account with the current crop of fixed term deposits on offer, especially those coming out of four or five year fixed rate bonds. And yet despite this low interest rate environment, fixed rate bonds continue to play an important role for many savers. With this in mind, we give you a roundup of our latest fixed rate bond offers, as well as take a look at some of our most popular alternatives.

Fixed rate bonds a popular choice

With interest rates looking set to continue at their record lows for some time to come, and whilst top instant access accounts only offer around 1.0% AER, savers looking for the certainty of knowing exactly how much they will receive, when and for how long, still look towards the fixed rate bond which remains a popular choice for those wanting to combine a fixed return with full capital protection.

Short term: up to 2 years

Fixed rate bonds

For those looking at the shortest fixed terms, Habib Bank offer a 6 Month Fixed Rate Deposit paying 0.80% AER, whilst new entrants Zenith Bank and Masthaven Bank offer 1.30% AER and 1.35% AER respectively if you can tie your money up for a year with their 1 Year Fixed Term Deposit. Minimum deposits start as low as £500 and your deposits are eligible for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Interest is paid at maturity and as is standard with most fixed term deposits, no withdrawals are permitted during the term of the bond. Zenith Bank also offers a top rate of 1.52% AER if you fix for 2 years with their 2 Year Fixed Term Deposit account, with deposits available from £1,000, whilst Masthaven’s 2 Year Fixed Term Bond is slightly more competitive at 1.53% AER with a £500 minimum balance.

Fixed rate Cash ISAs

Bank of Cyprus UK offer market leading rates in this category, with their 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA paying 1.05%, and marginally higher at 1.10% AER if you want to fix for 2 years, both with a low minimum deposit of just £500. These accounts are available to anyone aged 16 or over and interest is paid annually into your Cash ISA. ISA transfers are permitted and eligible deposits are covered by the UK FSCS. Aldermore Bank offers a market leading 1.20% AER on their 2 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA but the minimum is slightly higher at £1,000. Aldermore Bank is the five time winner of the Consumer Moneyfacts ISA Provider of the Year Award (2011-2015).

Medium term: 3 to 4 years

Fixed rate bonds

In the three to four year space, our top deal comes from the new kid on the block, Masthaven Bank, and their 3 Year Fixed Term Deposit, currently paying 1.67% AER. The minimum deposit is £500 and interest can be paid monthly or annually. For those looking specifically for monthly interest, United Bank UK’s 3 Year Fixed Term Deposit pays a slightly lower rate of 1.55% AER, but also offers a monthly interest option, in addition to having it paid annually or at maturity. No withdrawals are permitted from these accounts.

Leading our tables over 4 years is Vanquis Bank offering 1.85% AER and Masthaven Bank offering 1.84% AER with their 4 Year Fixed Term Bond, for those with between £500 and £250,000 to deposit. Both accounts have annual or monthly interest options, but no withdrawals are permitted during the term. Accounts can be opened in sole or joint names.

Fixed rate Cash ISAs

Bank of Cyprus UK continues to be very competitive in the fixed rate Cash ISA market with their 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA, currently paying 1.20% AER and with a respectable minimum deposit of just £500. Aldermore are offering a higher rate of 1.25% AER fixed over 3 years with their 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA whilst both of these accounts allow you to transfer in existing ISAs from other providers, and can be set up easily online.

Longer term: 5 years+

Fixed rate bonds

Although the highest rates are still rewarded with higher savings rates in return for locking your money away for longer, the interest rate gap between short term and longer term is also at record lows. For those prepared to commit their savings for five years, Vanquis Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond is paying 2.00% AER with a minimum deposit is £1,000 whilst Masthaven Bank’s 2.01% AER is currently market leading and interest can be paid monthly or annually.

Fixed rate bond holders facing significant falls

Just over a year ago we were talking about savings rates of around 2.10% for a 1 year fixed rate, 2.35% for a 2 year fixed whilst a 3 year would get you 2.70% AER fixed. Our best rates above will earn you 1.35%, 1.53% and 1.61% AER respectively, equivalent to reductions of between 35% and 40%. And the situation is even worse for longer term bond holders. We have many customers who are coming out of five year fixed rates where the rate on offer was around 4.60%. Now, they are looking at 2.01% as the market leading five year fixed rate, a significant reduction in interest of 56%. For someone with a maturing lump sum of £50,000, this is equivalent to their income dropping from £2,300 per year to £1,005.

Investing for fixed income

It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that many fixed rate savers have had to consider a wider range of options than ever before in the search for higher levels of income, and in doing so this inevitably involves considering investments and the associated risk to your capital. One of the main issues facing those in this situation is that most traditional income investments only offer a variable income, and so comparing with a fixed rate bond can be more difficult. This is perhaps one reason which helps to explain why the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec has been such a popular plan with our customers.

Fixed income, fixed term

The plan offers a fixed income, which is paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market, whilst the investment also has a fixed term, so you know exactly how much you will be paid and for how long. The current issue offers 5.04% fixed income each year, which is paid as 0.42% each month.

In addition to offering a fixed income, this plan is different to most investment funds in that is also offers some capital protection against a falling stock market. Known as conditional capital protection, this means that your original investment is retuned in full unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50% during the plan term. If it does, 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.

The Enhanced Income Plan is also available as an ISA and accepts ISA transfers with a minimum investment of £3,000.

Cash versus investment – understand the risks first

One of the main differences between the fixed rate bond and the fixed income investment is that with the former, 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 in question remaining solvent. You also have access to the deposit protection available from the UK FSCS.

An investment into the Enhanced Income Plan is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc, which means the bank’s ability to meet and repay their financial obligations is equally an important consideration. However, since this is not a deposit, you are not eligible for compensation under the FSCS for default alone, and as highlighted above, the return of your capital is also dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index and so is at risk.

Risk v reward

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for higher fixed returns usually leads to the need to consider putting your capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing your fixed rate investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are prepared to accept the level of risk to your capital in return for the higher fixed rate.

Our best five year fixed rate is currently offering 1.90%. By accepting risk to your capital, the Investec plan offers 5.04% over six years, thereby offering more than two and half times the level of income each year. The main risk is that your capital is at risk if the FTSE 100 Index falls below 50% and so once you have understood how the plan works, the decision then is whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk in return for the higher fixed return on offer.

 

Compare fixed rate bonds »

Compare fixed rate Cash ISAs »

Find out more about the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

 

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. 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.

Tax treatment of ISAs 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.

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 is not a guide to its future performance.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Income versus Inflation: consider your options carefully

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Last updated: 14/02/2017

As if last month’s inflation increase to its highest level for 22 months was not bad enough, the talk this month of it possibly spiking to 4% or higher next year on the back of the Brexit vote, has created a number of serious concerns for both savers and investors. The result is that the income we generate from our capital is going to become more important than ever. With this in mind, we take a closer look at the impact the ongoing economic climate could have on anyone looking to take an income from their capital, as well as review some of the more popular options being considered by income seekers.

Inflation on the rise

The Consumer Price Index rose from 0.6% to 1.0% in September, the biggest monthly rise in more than 2 years and its highest level for 22 months. Although it is still some way off the Bank of England’s inflationary target of 2%, there also seems to be a general consensus that things are likely to get worse on the inflationary front, before they get better.

“Savings rates at record lows” – no news there then…

So, as if record low savings rates weren’t enough, this recent spike to the headline rate of inflation has added further pressure to the already difficult conditions that savers have had to endure in recent years. In fact, further to this rise, less than half of all savings accounts on offer can either match or beat inflation, resulting in more and more savers seeing the spending power of their cash being eroded. According to the Bank of England, the average easy access account now pays under 0.3%. So with further cuts to savings rates on the cards, inflationary rises are a serious cause for concern.

More bad news for savers

Savers are also facing more bad news since not only did the Bank of England’s cut to the base rate in August to 0.25% offer little hope of savings rates increasing any time soon, this move also had no impact on the pound, which has since fallen significantly against many of the major currencies. Most notably is the fall of sterling against the dollar, which recently saw a 31 year low against our North Atlantic neighbours, as the reality of a hard exit from Europe starts to take hold.

Serious concerns for those in retirement

Whilst a poor exchange rate boosts export orientated businesses and manufacturing, it also drives up inflation as the price of imports rise, with the most affected likely being food, then goods and services. This means that those in retirement will be hit particularly hard since they generally spend higher proportions of their income on these essentials. In fact, inflation is consistently cited as one of the most serious concerns for pensioners, along with the cost of care, running out of money and future changes to the state pension.

How high could inflation go? – the impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit

Experts agree unanimously that the fall in the value of the pound is likely to drive prices up, and the National Institute for Economic Research expects consumer price inflation to peak to 4% in the second half of next year, a significant jump from its current level. Some fund managers believe it could go even higher, possibly reaching 5%. This also means that the Bank of England is very unlikely to increase interest rates, with some suggestions that they will remain at their record low 0.25% until at least 2019.

You must take a view on inflation

This all combines to suggest an extended period of tough times for savers and is perhaps going to be one of the most difficult couple of years for anyone relying on income generated from capital, with cash savers undoubtedly hit the hardest. Although forecasts about short term changes could prove wrong, savers should be wary of focusing on the short term when it is the longer term impact of inflation which causes the most damage.

Remember, inflation is a backward-looking measure, i.e. it measures the rate of inflation over the last 12 months. It tells us little about what will happen in the next 12 months, let alone looking beyond this timeframe, and yet 1,000s of us each day make decisions which tie us in for much longer periods without considering its impact. You must take a view on the impact inflation might have, before you act.

A note on the Personal Savings Allowance

Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers, this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Beyond these allowances, basic rate taxpayers will pay 20 percent on savings income and higher rate taxpayers pay 40 percent (additional rate taxpayers will not receive a personal allowance). Also, note that income from ISAs does not count towards your Personal Savings Allowance (it’s already tax-free).

Income options and your net return

The net return on your capital is the amount you receive after tax and inflation has been taken into account. Thanks to the Personal Savings Allowance, many savers have had the impact of tax on their returns negated. However, inflation is still a critical factor, which is why the current economic backdrop should play an important role in deciding which route you decide to take with your capital. We therefore take a look at some of our most popular income options, and see how their returns stack up against the rising cost of living.

Fixed rate bonds

Historically the cornerstone product for many savers, these accounts have probably suffered more than any other in recent times. Consistent reductions in the returns from both short and longer term fixed rates have seen many savers facing significant falls (more than half) in the income they have enjoyed from their maturing fixed rate, when compared to the best on offer from bonds with the same duration available at maturity.

Savers face losing more than 50% of their income

One group that continues to face losing more than 50% of their income is the thousands of savers in the current crop of five year fixed rates that will mature in the coming months. These savers will have enjoyed a fixed rate of interest for the last five years, for example Scottish Widows Bank was paying 4.60% AER. By comparison, our best five year fixed rate currently on offer, from Masthaven Bank, only offers 2.06% AER. That’s a reduction of a staggering 2.54% per year, equivalent to a fall in income of 55%. Needless to say there are not many of us who can withstand this sort of drop in income without it having a significant impact.

To fix or not to fix?

The picture is a similar one for shorter term fixed rates. The best 1 and 2 year fixed rate bonds are currently paying around 1.31% to 1.58%, and although all of these rates are higher than the current rate of inflation, this will not provide a real return if either you are having to use the income to supplement your cost of living (so the actual value of your capital is being eroded), or inflation rises in the coming months and years. With such sharp falls in the level of interest on offer compared to a few years ago, this also means more savers will need to use capital to supplement their income, making their situation even worse over time.

Should you ultimately decide to commit to a fixed rate, then before applying make sure you fully consider the current economic conditions and the impact they might have over the full term of your fixed rate. There are clear inflationary pressures at the moment so you should be confident that rises to the cost of living will not increase significantly during the fixed term period, otherwise any inflation beating returns may well evaporate.

Beware the instant access trap

So as you can see, fixed rate bonds remain at record lows and inflation aside, it is the fall in income that savers are experiencing, especially from longer term fixed rates about to mature, that is causing the greatest concern. This has also resulted in a number of maturing fixed rate bondholders moving away from medium to longer term fixed rates in favour of instant access accounts, on the basis that something might happen relatively soon which will then spur them on to taking further action. This course of action currently offers little or no prospect of any real growth on your capital, your income will be considerably lower than from a fixed rate bond, interest rates are unlikely to go anywhere for some time, and should inflation move upwards as expected, this could prove to be a very disastrous strategy indeed.

Moving up the risk spectrum

The reality therefore is that savers sitting in cash will therefore continue to struggle to generate a real return, regardless of whether they remain in instant access savings or commit to a fixed rate of interest. This is likely to result in a rise in the numbers looking towards riskier assets to stand any chance of generating an inflation-adjusted real return, especially for income seekers who need to maintain a higher level of income to support their cost of living.

Savers looking to investments

Whilst the combination of low fixed rates and the potential for high inflation may force more of us to consider investing, this raises the difficult question of taking on more risk in an attempt to replicate historical levels of income enjoyed from deposit based products. Although most investments only offer a variable income, the fixed monthly income (currently 0.42% per month, equivalent to 5.04% per year) from Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan has been a very popular choice with our investors. The plan also includes conditional capital protection, so your capital is returned at the end of the fixed term unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%. This plan is available as an ISA and also accepts ISA transfers and non-ISA investments.

Risk versus reward

It is important to remember that unlike deposit based savings products, this plan puts your capital at risk and if the FTSE does fall more than 50%, you could lose some or all of your initial capital. Also, since it is an investment rather than a deposit-based plan, your initial capital is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default.

In conclusion …

Whatever route you decide to take, there is no escaping the impact of continuing record low savings rates and falling income levels, all to be compounded by the prospect of sharp rises to inflation and the uncertainty that may come with our exit from the European Union. It seems the trade off for capital security for some time to come will be low rates of interest and in all likelihood a negative return in real terms, whilst for those considering using some of their savings to invest, you must make sure you fully understand all of the risks involved before proceeding.

 

Click here to compare instant access accounts »

Click here to compare fixed rate bonds »

Click here for more information on the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

Click here to visit our Income Section »

 

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. This investment does not include the same security of capital which is afforded to a deposit account.    

Tax treatment of ISAs 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.

Summer sizzlers: our selection of the hottest deals on offer this summer

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Last updated: 12/09/2016

As the Olympic Games continue to keep us gripped with excitement, it’s not just the GB Team that’s sizzling this summer. The news that the Bank of England base rate has fallen to a new record low has meant the need for both savers and investors to review their options has really heated up. So to help you stay on top of all the action, we bring you a selection of the hottest savings and investment deals on offer this summer.

Interest rates

Since the recent reduction to a new record low for the Bank of England’s base rate, savings rates have started to fall at a significant pace. Needless to say the outlook for savers is not good, but it’s not just savings rates that are falling. Bond yields also face record lows whilst the share prices of many of the higher yielding FTSE 100 companies have gone up as more investors search for income. So the outlook is bleak for both savers and investors, and the need to make the most out of your capital has suddenly become priority number one this summer.

So what’s hot?

For many savers, longer term savings rates are not offering enough of an increased rate to justify tying your money up for longer, and so we see most activity is in the short term space, from instant access up to 2 years. Whilst as you might expect, with interest rates coming down, many savers inevitably start to consider taking on more risk with their capital in the hunt for higher returns, so we also cover some of our income and growth investment best sellers.

Combining every day banking with up to 5.0% interest

The fact remains that loyal bank customers are rarely rewarded and so usually face far lower rates on their savings compared to those who shop around. Well this is now also true of current accounts. Although historically these accounts have been renowned for offering very low rates of interest, this has started to change significantly in the last few years with some offering very competitive returns indeed.

Low monthly balance top pick – Nationwide’s FlexDirect account pays 5.0% AER fixed for the first 12 months on all in credit balances up to £2,500. Thereafter the rate reverts to 1.0% AER variable.

Higher monthly balance top pick – Santander’s 1|2|3 account pays 3.0% AER variable on your entire balance up to £20,000 provided your balance is at least £3,000. This rate is set to change to 1.50% AER on all balances up to £20,000 from 1st November 2016. It also offers some competitive cashback rates on a wide selection of household bills. A £5 per month account fee applies.

Instant access – market leading 1.20% AER variable

When longer terms savings rates are low, instant access accounts see far greater inflows as savers use this as a safety net whilst reviewing other options. The Freedom Access Account from RCI Bank is a market leading instant access account paying 1.20% AER variable and you can save from £100 up to £1m, with free and unlimited payments and withdrawals. RCI Bank is part of the Renault global banking group and so the first €100,000 equivalent is protected by the French deposit guarantee scheme (FGDR) rather than the UK FSCS.

For those where the UK FSCS is more of a priority, Aldermore’s Easy Access Account offers 1.00% AER variable on balances from £1,000 to £1m, whilst the B account is an innovative new banking service from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks which combines a current account with an instant access account, the latter offering 1% AER variable on all balances. The interest rates alone are worth a closer look but this account might particularly appeal to the more technically savvy saver due to the intuitive B banking app which forms part of the overall proposition.

Fixed rate bonds – short terms hit the top spots

Whilst instant access offers 1.20%, a top deal on a 5 year fixed rate is only offering 1.0% per year more at 2.20% AER. These are without doubt some of the lowest long term fixed rates in history and this 1% margin has resulted in more money staying in shorter term fixed rates. Here are our current top picks for those who can tie their money up for between 6 months and 3 years, all of which are eligible for the UK’s FSCS:

6 months top pick: Habib Bank 6 month Fixed Rate Deposit, offering 0.80% AER

1 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 1 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.30% AER

2 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 2 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.40%

3 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 3 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.50%

The minimum deposit with Bank of Cyprus accounts is £10,000 whilst for Habib Bank it is £1,000. For those looking for a 1, 2 or 3 year fixed rate account with a lower minimum, Aldermore Bank pays 1.40% AER over 3years, 1.30% AER over 2 years and 1.20% AER fixed for one year, all with a minimum of £1,000.

Long term savings alternative – potential 24% growth return

For those looking for the potential for higher growth and are prepared to tie their money up for the longer term, the Investec 6 Year Defensive Deposit Plan offers an alternative that some savers might find attractive. By linking your return to the FTSE 100 Index, this deposit plan offers the potential for a 24% fixed return, which is paid provided the value of the Index at the end of the plan, is higher than 95% of its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). So the FTSE can fall up to 5% and you still receive the fixed return. However, if the Index is lower, you will only receive a return of your original capital.

The best long term fixed rate savings bonds are paying around 2.20% AER whilst by linking your deposit to the FTSE, if this Deposit Plan pays out the 24% return is equivalent to 3.65% AER. With record low longer term fixed rates forcing some savers to consider a wider range of options, the combination of capital protection plus the potential for a high growth return could be a compelling opportunity. Taxpayers can also benefit from tax free growth as the plan is also available as an ISA.

Fixed income investment

Another consequence of this sustained period of low longer term fixed rates is that savers start to consider taking on more risk with their capital in the hunt for higher returns. One such plan that has been popular in this area is the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec Bank. Unusually for an investment, it has a fixed term and offers a fixed income each year, paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market. It also pays income each month which is the most popular payment frequency. The latest issue pays 4.92% per year, paid as 0.41% each month.

Also unusual for an investment is the inclusion of some capital protection, or ‘conditional capital protection’. This means that your initial capital is returned at the end of the investment unless the FTSE falls by more than 50% during the fixed term of the plan. If it does, and the Index also finishes below its starting level then your original capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your original investment.

Up to 6.0% investment income, quarterly payments

The Focus FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan offers up to 6% per year which is higher than the income on the Investec plan however it is not fixed, but rather dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. A quarterly payment of 1.50% is made provided the value of the Index at the end of each quarter is at or above 75% of its value at the start of the investment. If the Index is below 75% of its opening level, no income payment will be made for that quarter.

Your initial investment is returned in full unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%, measured at the end of the fixed term only. If it has fallen below this level, capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall and so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Both of these plans are available as an ISA and accept ISA transfers, in which case your income would be tax free.

Defensive growth plans

Finally, in the investment growth space, defensive plans have been popular on the back of the UK’s decision to leave the UK and the uncertainty around what impact this might have on our growth and economic prospects. These defensive plans offer the potential for investment level returns even if the stock market goes down, in some case by up to 50%. They are therefore proving popular with investors concerned about the historically high level of the FTSE and would therefore like to include a defensive element to their investment. This plan may appeal to those who think the FTSE might fall slightly, stay the same, or rise in the coming years but not significantly.

Defensive Kick Out top pick: Investec’s FTSE 100 Step Down Kick-Out Plan offers the opportunity for 8.0% for each year invested (not compounded) even if the FTSE falls up to 20% over the term of the plan. Capital is at risk is the FTSE falls by more than 50%.

Fixed term defensive growth top pick: Investec’s FTSE 100 Defensive Growth Plan offers a 33% fixed return at the end of the plan, provided the Index it at least half its value at the start of the plan (i.e. it can fall up to 50% and you still receive the 33%, along with a full return of capital). Your capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 50%, in which case you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

 

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AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year. Gross is the interest you will receive before tax is deducted.

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 plan. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular product, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek professional advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs 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.

The investments in this article are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are 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 due to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index or shares listed within the Index. As share prices can move by a wide margin, plans based on the performance of shares represent higher risk investments than plans based on the FTSE 100 Index as a whole.

There is also 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 shares listed within the Index is not a guide to their future performance.

Fixed returns – our round up of the latest fixed rate options

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Last updated: 30/08/2016

For those who want to know exactly how much they will receive, when and for how long, the traditional deposit-based fixed rate bond has long been one of the safest and most popular choices for many. But with interest rates on savings remaining at record lows, and with the possibility of this getting even or fixed worse as we get to grips with the post-Brexit environment, many more are starting to consider the wider range of products offering a fixed return. So whether it is the more traditional fixed rate bond rate Cash ISA, or you are looking to put your capital at risk in return for a higher fixed income, we take a look at a number of options as well as give you a round-up of the latest offerings.

Short term: up to 2 years

Fixed rate bonds

For those looking at the shortest fixed terms, Habib Bank Zurich offer a 6 Month Fixed Rate Deposit paying 0.80% AER, whilst they also offer a higher rate of 1.10% AER if you can tie your money up for a year, with their 12 Month Fixed Rate Deposit. Both products have a relatively low minimum of £1,000 and your deposit is eligible for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Interest is paid at maturity and as is standard with most fixed term deposits, no withdrawals are permitted during the term of the bond.

Bank of Cyprus UK offer a top rate of 1.40% AER if you fix for 2 years, although they have a slightly higher minimum of £10,000 whereas Habib Bank will offer 1.35% AER with their 24 Month Fixed Rate Deposit but with a lower minimum of £1,000. Both pay interest at maturity and eligible deposits are covered by the UK FSCS.

Fixed rate Cash ISA

Bank of Cyprus UK offer a 2 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA paying 1.20% AER, and only marginally higher at 1.30% AER if your fix for 3 years, both with a low minimum deposit of just £500. These accounts are available to anyone aged 16 or over and interest is paid annually. ISA transfers are permitted and eligible deposits are covered by the UK FSCS.

Medium term: 3 to 4 years

Fixed rate bonds

In the three to four year space, our top deal comes again from Bank of Cyprus UK with their 3 Year Fixed Rate paying 1.50% AER. The minimum deposit is £10,000 and interest is paid on maturity. For those looking for a lower minimum or more frequent payment of interest, AXIS Bank UK’s 3 Year Fixed Term Deposit also pays 1.50% AER but with a £1,000 minimum (£200,000 maximum) and offers monthly, quarterly, annually or at maturity interest options. No withdrawals are permitted from either account.

Fixed rate Cash ISA

Bank of Cyprus remain very competitive in the fixed rate Cash ISA market with their 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA currently paying 1.30% AER and with a respectable minimum deposit of just £500. This account also allows you to transfer in existing ISAs from other providers.

Longer term: 5 years +

Fixed rate bonds

Although you are still rewarded with higher savings rates in return for locking your money away for longer, the interest rate gap between short term and longer term is also at record lows. For those prepared to commit their savings for five years, Vanquis Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond is paying 2.20% AER. The minimum deposit is £1,000 and interest can be paid monthly or annually.

Savings rates at record lows…

Unfortunately the UK’s decision to leave the EU has had an impact on what were already record low interest rates on offer. Combined with the talk of the Bank of England potentially cutting the Bank Rate for the first time since 2009, and the outlook for many who rely on more traditional fixed term deposits is bleak to say the least.

To put this into context, 12 months ago we wrote about a 1 year fixed rate paying 1.90% AER, a 2 year paying 2.38% AER and a 3 year paying 2.50% AER . We are now looking at 1.25%, 1.60% and 1.65% AERs respectively. These are significant reductions of up to 34% on what were already historically low returns, with the biggest falls being felt at the longer term end of the market. This is why more and more are looking at a wider range of options, which inevitably leads one to consider investments.

Fixed income investments

The income from collective investments (such as funds) invariably comes from investing in a number of equities, bonds and commercial properties, which provide income in the form of dividends, interest and rental yields. 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 such investments normally only offer a variable income.

Fixed income, fixed term

Investors have therefore always struggled to find an investment that actually pays a fixed income, which perhaps partly helps to explain why the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec has been our most popular income investment. The plan offers a fixed income, which is paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market, whilst the investment also has a fixed term, so you know exactly how much you will be paid and for how long. The current issue offers 5.04% fixed income each year, which is paid as 0.42% each month.

This investment includes conditional capital protection which means that your initial capital is retuned in full unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50% during the plan term. If it does, 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.

The Enhanced Income Plan is also available as an ISA and accepts ISA transfers with a minimum investment of £3,000.

Cash versus investment

The most important difference between the fixed rate bond and the fixed income investment is that with the former, 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 in question remaining solvent. An investment into the Enhanced Income Plan is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc, which means the bank’s ability to meet and repay their financial obligations is equally an important consideration. However, as highlighted above the return of your capital is also dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, therefore your capital is not protected and is at risk.

Peer to Peer

One particular area where we have seen a significant rise in the number of the offerings is Peer to Peer lending, some of which offer fixed rates of interest. In simple terms, peer to peer lenders match people who want to earn interest on their money with people who want to borrow money. This means that both lenders and borrowers can benefit from interest rates that are better than those found on the high street, whether from conventional fixed rate accounts or from bank loans.

Fixed interest

One of the earliest and perhaps best known Peer to Peer lenders offering fixed interest is Wellesley & Co. Here your investment is combined with funds from other investors and then lent out to individuals and businesses investing in property – so every loan is secured against tangible assets such as residential or commercial property. They then use the interest paid by them to pay competitive rates to investors. Wellesley have lent out over £336m to date.

The current rates (based on receiving monthly interest) are 2.95%, 3.30% and 3.70% over 1, 2 and 3 years respectively. You also have the option to receive interest at maturity, offering up to 3.75% annual interest. Compared to deposit-based fixed rate bonds these headline rates are attractive however these are capital at risk investments, and so you could lose some or all of your initial investment and interest payments are no guaranteed if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Peer to Peer lending is also not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Risk v reward

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for higher fixed returns leads to the need to consider putting your capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing your fixed rate investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit over a similar timeframe and then consider whether you are prepared to accept the level of risk to your capital in return for the higher fixed rate.

Our best three and five year fixed rates are currently offering 1.85% and 2.20% respectively. By accepting risk to your capital, Wellesley would offer fixed interest of 3.70% over three years whilst the Investec plan offers 5.04% over six years, thereby doubling your fixed return over three year and increasing it by 2.84% a year over the longer term. Once you have understood how each plan works, the decision then is whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk in return for the higher fixed returns on offer.

 

Compare fixed rate bonds »

Compare fixed rate Cash ISAs »

Compare Peer to Peer investments »

Find out more about the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

 

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. 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.

Tax treatment of ISAs 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.

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.

Peer to peer savings accounts are not the same as normal savings accounts so you need to consider the features before you invest. Investment through Wellesley & Co involves lending to individuals or companies and therefore your capital is at risk and interest payments are not guaranteed if the borrower fails to repay the loan. In that event, Wellesley Finance would attempt to recover the funds outstanding. However, such security arrangements do not guarantee full return of capital and income. Peer-to-Peer lending is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

AER stands for the Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Fixed rate head to head: Cash versus Investments

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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:

Fixed rate

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.

Payment frequency

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.

Fixed term

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.

Early closure

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

ISA option

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.

Credit risk

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).

Compensation scheme

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.

FTSE income plans compared – offering up to 7.0% income

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Income investments are consistently our most commonly requested investment plans, with many also choosing to use their ISA allowance in order to receive the income tax free. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that we have seen an increase in the number of fixed term income investment plans available in the market. To this end, we compare three investment plans which between them offer up to 7% income, along with some capital protection against a falling stock market.

Income, income, everywhere

The need for income is one of the most common demands put on our capital, and with continued pressure from record low savings rates and uncertainty around future dividend yields, the defined return and defined risk from structured investment plans have meant these have become increasingly more popular with income seekers.

Features in common

The income plans under the spotlight here are the FTSE Dual Option Contingent Income Plan from Meteor, the FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan from Focus and the FTSE Range Income Plan from Mariana. All three plans have a number of features in common, including:

Based on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index

Both the level of income and the return of your initial capital for all of these plans is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index (‘the Index’ or ‘the FTSE’). The FTSE is widely recognised as the proxy benchmark for most investment managers, especially those investing predominantly in UK equities. Since the historical volatility is familiar to many investors, they are in a better position to consider the pros and cons of the plan within the context of the underlying investment and the potential income on offer.

Fixed term

All of the plans have a fixed term, and although you do have the option to withdraw your money early, the plans are designed to be held for the full term and early withdrawal could result in you getting back less than you invested. The fixed term may well appeal to those who need to know exactly how long their capital will be tied up for and can benefit from planning around this.

The Focus and Meteor plans also include the ability to mature early or ‘kick out’, which will occur if the Index has gone up by 5% or more at the end of each quarter, from year 2 onwards. If it does, a final income payment will be made along with a full return of your original capital, which may appeal to those who would like to re-consider their investment options should the FTSE rise.

Quarterly income

All three plans offer a quarterly payment frequency, and so investors have a regular opportunity to receive an income payment. Quarterly payments are a popular feature and could be attractive if you are looking for the opportunity to supplement existing income.

Up to 7.0% annual income

These plans are designed for investors looking for a high level of income, with a maximum potential income of between 5.4% and 7.0%. The main difference between the three plans is the level the FTSE has to be in order for the income to be paid each quarter. So depending on what you think might happen to the FTSE in the coming years, these plans cater for a wide range of investor views by covering a number of eventualities.

7.0% income if the FTSE does not fall more than 20%

Option 2 of the Meteor Dual Option Contingent Income Plan offers a quarterly payment of 1.75% provided the FTSE at the end of each quarter has not fallen by more than 20% from its value at the start of the plan.

6.50 % income if the FTSE does not fall more than 25%

The FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan from Focus offers up to 6.50% each year, with a 1.625% income payment made at the end of each quarter provided the FTSE 100 Index closes at or above 75% of its value at the start of the plan – so it can fall up to 25% and you would still receive an income payment.

5.40% income if the FTSE does not fall more than 40%

Option 1 of Meteor’s Dual Option Contingent Income Plan offers a quarterly payment of 1.35% provided the FTSE at the end of each quarter has not fallen by more than 40% from its value at the start of the plan.

7.0% income provided the FTSE stays within an increasing range

The FTSE Range Income Plan pays 1.75% at the end of each quarter, provided the FTSE 100 Index closes between an upper and lower range based on its level at the start of the plan. This range starts at +/- 12% at the end of quarter one, and then increases by +/-0.75% each quarter finishing at a range of +/- 29.25% in the final quarter.

With all plans, if the FTSE falls outside of the level required at the end of each quarter, no income will be paid for that quarter.

Conditional capital protection

Another feature of these plans, which sets them apart from other capital at risk income investments, is the conditional capital protection. This means that your initial capital is returned in full at the end of the term provided the FTSE 100 Index has not fallen by 40% or more below its value at the start of the plan. This is measured at the end of the investment only and offers investors some capital protection against a falling stock market.

If the FTSE has fallen below this level, your original capital will be reduced by the same percentage as the fall in the Index. In this situation at least 40% of your initial investment would be lost, so you should understand that your capital is at risk and that you could lose some or all of your investment.

Risk versus reward

With savings rates continuing at record lows, the principle of risk versus reward means that the search for potentially higher income returns leads us to consider putting our capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing an investment therefore is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit over a similar timeframe, and then consider whether you are comfortable with the additional risk to your income and capital.

Anything around 2.75% is currently a top savings rate in the longer term fixed rate bond market and so by accepting risk to your capital, you have the opportunity to increase your income by up to 4.25% a year, depending on which income plan you invest in. The decision is therefore whether you are comfortable with putting your capital at risk and the conditional capital protection offered, in return for a potentially higher level of income.

Credit ratings and agencies

With structured investment plans your capital is used to purchase securities, normally issued by a bank (the counterparty), which are designed to produce the stated returns. This means their ability to be able to meet their financial obligations become an important consideration. This is known as credit risk and means that in the event of the counterparty going into liquidation, you could lose future income returns and some or all of your initial investment. These plans are also not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default alone.

One accepted method of determining credit worthiness of a company is to look at credit ratings, issued and periodcially reviewed by independent companies known as ratings agencies. Standard and Poor’s is a leading credit agency and has attributed the following ratings to the counterparties used in the above plans (as at the start of their offer periods):

Plan Counterparty S&P rating
Focus Credit Suisse ‘A’ rating with a stable outlook
Mariana Natixis ‘A’ rating with a stable outlook
Meteor Natixis ‘A’ rating with a stable outlook

The ‘A’ rating denotes a strong capacity to meet its financial commitments and repay debts, whilst the ‘stable outlook’ indicates that the rating is not likely to change in the short to medium term (between 6 months and 2 years).

Fair Investment conclusion

Commenting on the current range of FTSE based income plans, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company Oliver Roylance-Smith said: “By combining the potential for a high level of income with some capital protection should the stock market fall, these plans could offer a compelling balance of risk versus reward when compared to other income alternatives available in the market.”

He continued: “With the opportunity for up to 7.0%, the headline yields are attractive for plans based on the performance of the FTSE whilst the cap on any income is balanced with the conditional capital protection included. Depending on what you think might happen to the FTSE in the coming years, there should be something here for every investor.”

Click here for more information on Meteor’s FTSE Dual Option Contingent Income Plan »

Click here for more information on the Focus FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan »

Click here for more information on Mariana’s FTSE Range Income Plan »

 

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. 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.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and legislation which are subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.

These are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. Income payments are not guaranteed and 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 is not a guide to its future performance.

Our 10 best last minute ISA ideas

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With just one week to go until the deadline for using your 2015/16 ISA allowance of £15,240, this really is your last opportunity to make use of this valuable tax break and help protect your returns from the taxman. If you are yet to make use of some or all of your allowance, here we give you our 10 best last minute ISA ideas. Including both Cash ISA and Investment ISAs, as well as opportunities where you can include your 2016/17 ISA allowance (£15,240) as well, there should be something for everyone.

1.   Our best-selling Investment ISA

For those looking for growth but also with the opportunity to mature early or ‘kick out’ each year, the Enhanced Kick Out Plan offers 11.50% for each year invested provided the FTSE 100 Index at the end of each year is higher than its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). Capital is at risk if the FTSE falls by more than 50%. This is our best selling Investment ISA during the current ISA season and also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

2.   Fixed income Investment ISA

The Enhanced Income Plan is a regular ISA season top seller, paying a fixed income of 5.28% per year regardless of what happens to the stock market. The plan also has monthly income payments, so you know exactly how much you will paid, when, and for how long. Capital is at risk if the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%. This plan features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

3.   Self-select Investment ISA top seller

Barclays Stockbrokers has been voted ‘Best Execution-Only Broker’ at the Shares Awards 2015 whilst they have also been voted Self Select ISA Provider of the Year 2016 at the ADVFN International Financial Awards. Their investment ISA offers over 2,000 funds as well as a wide range of other investments including shares, exchange traded funds, investment trust, gilts and bonds.  Click here for more information »

4.   Defensive Investment ISA best seller

The Defensive Growth Plan from Investec offers a fixed return of 36% (equivalent to 5.25% compound annual growth) plus a return of your original capital, provided the FTSE 100 Index has not fallen by 50% or more at the end of the investment term. If it has, no growth will be achieved and your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall. This plan also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

5.   Income Investment ISA top seller

The FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan pays a quarterly income of 1.875% for each quarter the FTSE 100 Index does not end less than 25% below its value at the start of the plan. So even if the FTSE falls up to 25% each quarter, you would still achieve 7.50% annual income. Capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% at the end of the investment term. This plan features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

6.   Managed and regular saver Investment ISA

The Standard Life Stocks & Shares ISA includes their ‘Easy Option ISA’, which allows investors to invest in one of their MyFolio Managed Funds run by a team of experts at Standard Life Investment Ltd. You can manage your account online and your ISA can be opened from just £50 per month with transfers from other ISAs permitted.  Click here for more information »

7.   Defensive supertracker Investment ISA

Defensive plans remain popular and the FTSE Defensive Supertracker from Meteor tracks any growth in the FTSE during the plan term and then trebles it, subject to a maximum growth return of 60%. The plan is defensive since the growth is based on any rise above 80% of the FTSE’s value at the start of the plan – that’s a 60% return even if the FTSE ends the same. Capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%. This plan also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

8.   Instant access Cash ISA

For savers looking to combine a top interest rate with access to their money at all times, the Easy Access ISA from AA offers a simple, bonus-free savings rate of 1.25% AER variable. The account can be opened and managed online with just £100 and there are unlimited free withdrawals. The account also accepts transfers in. There are no penalties, notice periods or tiered interest rates, whilst interest is calculated daily and paid in March each year.  Click here for more information »

9.   Fixed rate Cash ISA

If you are looking for the reassurance of a fixed savings rate and don’t need access for your money for at least a year, fixed rate Cash ISAs are a popular option. The 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA from AA currently offers 1.35% AER fixed and can be opened with a single deposit of £500. The account also accepts transfers in. Withdrawals are not permitted and 90 days loss of interest will apply if you access your money during the fixed term. You can apply and manage your account online whilst interest is calculated daily and paid at the end of your 12 month fixed rate period.  Click here for more information »

10.  Help to Buy Cash ISA

First time buyers can benefit from a 25% bonus of their Help to Buy ISA balance with a minimum bonus of £400 (so you need at least £1,600 saved) and a maximum of £3,000 (on a savings balance of £12,000) although you can have more saved. That means for every £200 you save HM Government will add £50, up to a maximum of £3,000. Eligibility criteria and Help to Buy: ISA Scheme Rules apply. Also note that any funds withdrawn before closing the account will not count towards the Government Bonus. The Nationwide Help to Buy: ISA is currently offering 2.00% AER variable with a minimum opening balance of £1.  Click here for more information »

 

Click here to compare Cash ISAs »

Click here to compare Investment ISAs »

Click here to compare our Top 10 Investment ISA plans »

 

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 value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Different types of investment carry different levels of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.

Some of the investments mentioned are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are 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.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.

2016 ISA season selections – our Top 5 Investment ISAs

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With well under a month to go, time is running out to maximise the valuable tax benefit of your ISA allowance before the deadline on 5th April 2016, otherwise it will be lost forever. This has already been a very busy ISA season, and with Cash ISA savings rates continuing at uninspiring levels, it is perhaps not surprising that last season’s rise in the number of Stocks & Shares ISAs is a continuing trend. With the need to review existing ISAs, as well as making sure any new ISA investments offer the opportunity for competitive returns, we bring you our most popular Investment ISAs.

Our Top 5 Selections

Below we have listed some of our most popular Investment ISA plans, featuring both income and growth investments. With income needs continuing to play a critical role for many investors, the attraction of having tax free income is understandable. Whilst for investors looking for growth, included are those plans which take a defensive view on the stock market, as well as investments with the opportunity to mature early or ‘kick out’. Our head of savings and investment, Oliver Roylance-Smith, also offers a Fair Investment view for each plan.

Your ISA allowance

The ISA allowance for the current tax year is £15,240, whilst all of the plans detailed below accept Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers. Each plan also offers a Double ISA option, whereby you can invest the current tax year ISA allowance and next tax year’s ISA allowance (2016/17 tax year ISA allowance is also £15,240) via one application form – thereby offering the opportunity to invest up to £30,480 into new ISAs. Please check the individual plan for further details and for any application deadlines that apply.

Potential for 11.50% annual growth

With the potential for double digit returns and the opportunity to mature early from year one onwards, the Investec Enhanced Kick Out Plan has been our best selling Investment ISA this year. The plan will return 11.50% annual growth (not compounded) provided the value of the FTSE 100 Index at the end of each year is higher than its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). Your initial capital is at risk if the Index falls by more than 50% during the term, and also finishes below its starting value, in which case your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall.

Fair Investment view: “Depending on your view of what will happen to the FTSE, the ability to achieve 11.50% annual growth, even if the Index stays relatively flat, perhaps helps to explain why this plan has proved so popular. The current issue also sees the highest potential return on offer from this plan since 2012, so if the combination of high growth returns, the ability to mature early, as well as some capital protection against a falling market sounds appealing, this might make for a compelling opportunity in the current investment climate.”

Click here for more information »

 

Up to 7.50% annual income

The FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan from Focus offers a quarterly payment of 1.75% during the plan if at the end of each quarter, the value of the FTSE 100 index has not fallen more than 25% from its value at the start of the plan. Therefore, the Index can fall up to 25% at the end of each quarter and you would still receive 7.50% annual income, but if the Index falls by more than this, no income would be paid for that quarter.

Your initial investment is returned at the end of the plan provided the FTSE has not fallen by more than 40%, measured at the end of the fixed term only. If it has fallen below this level, capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Fair Investment view: “Those seeking income from their investments often put the potential yield and frequency of payments as their top priorities, so the headline yield of up to 7.50% is attractive and the cap on any income is balanced against the conditional capital protection thereby offering an attractive balance of risk v reward. It’s has been a while since we’ve been able to talk about the potential for up to 7.50% income from a plan based on the performance of the FTSE, and compared to other income alternatives available in the market, this plan could offer an attractive option.”

Click here for more information »

 

5.28% fixed income each year

Our next plan is from Investec and is our best selling income investment this year, for both ISA and non-ISA investors. The current issue of the Enhanced Income Plan pays a fixed income of 5.28% per year, with monthly payments of 0.44% paid to you regardless of the performance of FTSE.  Capital is at risk if the FTSE falls by more than 50% during the investment term. If it does, and the Index also finishes below its starting level then your original capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your original investment.

Fair Investment view:One of the attractions of an ISA is that it allows income to be generated that would otherwise be subject to income tax, whilst the Enhanced Income Plan offers a high fixed income that is paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market. Knowing exactly how much you will be paid, when and for how long are clearly features that could appeal, whilst the monthly payment frequency is usually the most sought after. The combination of a regular fixed income and a return of capital unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%, could offer a competitive balance of risk versus reward that might be considered by both savers and investors.”

Click here for more information »

 

36% return even if the FTSE falls up to 50%

Defensive plans offer investors a competitive return on their capital even if the stock market fails to go up. As a result, they have risen in popularity in the last few years and the recently launched Defensive Growth Plan from Investec is no exception. The plan offers a fixed return of 36%, provided the FTSE 100 Index at the end of the term, is more than half of its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). So the FTSE can fall up to 50% and you still receive a fixed growth return of 36%, equivalent to 5.25% compound annual growth. If the FTSE falls by 50% or more, no growth will be achieved and your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Fair Investment view: “Whilst the FTSE continues at what are still historically high levels, it is understandable why many investors are considering defensive investment plans and with a product headline of a 36% growth return unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by 50% or more, the risk versus reward of this plan is relatively easy to understand. So depending on your view of what might happen to the FTSE in the medium term, the ability to produce over 5% compound annual growth provided the market does not fall 50%, could make for an innovative investment opportunity.”

Click here for more information »

 

Triple the rise in the FTSE above 80% of its starting value

Following this defensive theme is our most popular ‘supertracker’ plan, the FTSE Defensive Supertracker from Meteor. The ‘supertracker’ part means your investment tracks any growth in the FTSE 100 Index during the term of the plan and then triples it, whilst the plan is ‘defensive’ since this growth is based on any rise above 80% of the FTSE’s starting value. Therefore, provided the FTSE has not fallen by more than 20%, you will receive triple any growth, subject to a maximum return of 60%. Therefore, this maximum return is achieved provided the FTSE ends the same or higher than its value at the start of the plan.

If the FTSE has fallen by more than 20%, no growth will be paid and your original investment will be returned in full unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%. If it has, your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Fair Investment view: “For those investors concerned about the historically high level of the FTSE and would therefore like to include a defensive element to their investment, this plan offers the opportunity for investment level returns not only if the FTSE goes up, but also if it stays flat or even goes falls up to 20%. By combining this with some capital protection should the stock market fall, this plan could offer a compelling balance of risk versus reward for those who are not confident that the FTSE will rise significantly in the medium term.”

Click here for more information »

 

Important reminder – why do an ISA?

One of the main reasons for using an ISA is it’s tax treatment since no tax is payable on the income you receive, or any capital gains that you make, and there is also no need to declare any ISA income or capital gains on your tax return. They therefore provide tax efficient income or growth on your investment, the benefit of which can be compounded over time. See our Top 10 Tips for ISA season for further help and tips on how to make the most from this important time of year. Please also note that with all of these investments, our experienced Investment Customer Services team is available on 0845 308 2525 to answer any questions you may have.

How to apply

When you click for more information on any of the above plans you will be able to request a brochure pack which will be sent to you by post and email. This will include everything you need to invest, whether applying for an ISA, transferring existing Cash ISAs and/or Stocks & Shares ISAs or making on-ISA investments. Also note that these plans have different application deadlines, and may also close early so it is important to submit your application as soon as possible. Minimum investments and arrangement fees also apply.

Click here to compare Investment ISAs »

 

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. 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.

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.

These are structured investment plans which are not capital protected and are 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 is not a guide to its future performance.