Last update: 27/09/2016
A defensive plan is simply a plan that is designed to provide an investment return even if the stock market fails to rise, or in some circumstances goes down slightly. They are therefore an option for those who would like the opportunity for investment level returns, but who are not confident the market will rise significantly in the medium term. The main feature of the Defensive Growth Plan from Investec is that returns are achieved even if the market has fallen by as much as 50% at the end of the fixed term. Here we take a closer look at the plan in order to find out why it has proved so popular with our investors.
Apart from a handful of days in 2015 and earlier this year, the closing level of the FTSE has been above 6,000 points since the start of 2013, and we have also seen the highest closing level on record (7,104 points), achieved towards the end of April last year. Whilst the FTSE has remained at what are historically high levels, defensive investment plans that offer the potential for investment level returns even if the stock market fails to rise or, in some scenarios, even falls slightly, have been an increasingly popular choice with our new and existing investors.
Defensive investments – a middle ground
Defensive investments attempt to offer investors the best of both worlds, by balancing less of the investment upside, with the opportunity to achieve these returns even if the market fails to rise. This means they are designed for investors who have a neutral or negative outlook of what could happen to the stock market in the coming years, and yet who would still like the opportunity to receive investment level returns. Based on the levels of the FTSE over the last few years, these arguably offer a compelling investment opportunity and Investec’s Defensive Growth Plan is one of our most popular.
In a nutshell
One of the latest additions to Investec’s highly competitive range of structured investment plans, the FTSE 100 Defensive Growth Plan offers a fixed return of 34% at the end of the six year term, provided the value of the FTSE at that point is equal to or higher than 50% of its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). Therefore, the FTSE can fall up to 50% and investors would still receive a 34% growth return, along with a full return of their original capital.
If the Index has fallen by more than 50% at the end of the term, 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.
34% return even if the FTSE falls 50%
This is a strong headline since investors will receive a positive return, even if the FTSE falls 50%. This means that even if you are not confident the FTSE will rise at all, you could still receive a fixed return of 34% unless the FTSE falls by more than 50%.
The ‘defensive’ feature
Since the fixed return on offer is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, the defensive element of the plan is an important one to understand. Rather than the Index having to finish higher than its value at the start of the plan, the Index can fall up to 50% and the fixed return of 34% is still paid. Whilst the FTSE continues at historically high levels, this ‘defensive’ feature could be an appealing one.
The use of averaging
Whether the plan pays the 34% fixed return is determined by comparing the value of the FTSE 100 Index at the start of the plan with its value at the end of the plan or the ‘Final Index Level’. When calculating the Final Index Level 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.
Some capital protection from a falling market
Provided the FTSE 100 Index has not fallen by more than 50% at the end of the term, the 34% growth return is paid to you along with a full return of your initial capital. Should the Index have fallen by more than 50%, your initial investment is reduced by 1% for each 1% fall. It is important to note that in this scenario, you would lose at least 50% of your capital.
Since the market can fall up to and including 50% before your initial investment is at risk, the plan offers some capital protection against a falling market. This should be considered in conjunction with the potential return on offer when reviewing the plan’s overall risk versus reward.
Defined risk and defined returns
Another feature of this plan is that, as with all structured investments, the potential returns are stated up front, prior to investing. This allows the investor to consider the potential upside in the context of the amount of risk they are taking, since you know at the outset exactly what needs to happen in order to receive the stated level of growth as well as a return of your initial investment.
Please note that this plan is only available as an ISA. The plan also accepts ISA transfers, from both Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs.
Credit ratings and agencies
This plan is a structured investment and so your initial capital is used to purchase securities issued by Investec Bank plc. These securities are structured in a way so that they provide the growth and return of capital as described above, which 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 growth return 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 rated Investec Bank plc with a credit rating of BBB with a stable outlook (awarded 27th October 2015). 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.
Fair Investment view
Commenting on the plan, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investment at Fair Investment Company Limited, said: “The ability to produce a 34% fixed return even if the market falls by 50% puts this plan in a category of its own, since most other defensive investments still require the FTSE to fall by no more than 20%.The risk versus reward of the plan is known at the outset and is relatively easy to understand, whilst by offering a competitive return even if the FTSE falls by up to half this plan is one of our best selling defensive investments. So for those who are not confident the stock market will continue to rise in the coming years, this plan could make for a compelling opportunity.”
The plan is open for New ISA investments up to the £15,240 allowance for the current tax year (2016/17) as well as Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers. The minimum investment is £3,000.
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 or switching 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.