This year, the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) outlawed the payment of commission from investment funds to financial advisers (IFAs). We were thrilled by that, for the simple reason that we love transparency, and we worry that alack of transparency brings in all sorts of biases.
However, if we had a gripe at the time, it was that the same rules weren't also applied to the fund platforms that most of us use when we invest (Hargreaves Lansdown, Barclays Stockbrokers, etc). Platforms have continued to quote fees for funds as management fees' levied by the fund-management companies. But they have also been able to take an undisclosed cut of those fees every year (known as trail commission').
The good news is this: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) "is concerned that the current system of payment is open to abuse and that it might influence how funds are promoted", as The Times coyly puts it. In other words, the higher the commission a fund pays to a platform, the more aggressively it might be promoted regardless of its quality, and all without the end investor understanding how the system works.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
So from next April, trail commissions will also be outlawed. The platforms, like independent financial advisers (IFAs), will have to disclose charges separately. We'll know how much we're paying to a fund manager, how much to a platform and how much to an IFA.
So how much are you paying now? That depends on who you are with. Some platforms, such as Alliance Trust, are already "clean". That means that you pay them what the fund charges, and a small flat fee on top.
Take the Standard Life Global Absolute Fund. According to The Times, if you buy it through Alliance you will pay a management fee of 0.75% plus a £12.50 dealing fee when you buy, and a £48 annual administration fee. If you have £10,000 in the fund, that makes your total cost 0.95% a year.
Go with TD Direct, also a leader in the provision of clean funds, and you will also pay 0.75% for the fund. It will then charge you a 0.35% management fee of its own. So that's a total of 1.1%. But if you buy the same fund via Hargreaves Lansdown, which isn't yet that into clean funds, then the management fee is quoted as 1.5%. Hargreaves Lansdown gets 0.79%. It "rebates" 0.1% a year, and "pockets" 0.69%. So your total cost ends up being more like 1.4% than 0.95%.
The point is that the various platforms are already offering a huge range of different deals. The move in 2014 will just clarify how those deals work and make it clear that some are significantly more expensive than others. Executives from the various platforms have, says the Financial Times, "made a great show of welcoming these changes". Given how many of them rely on lack of clarity to keep their profits up, it seems unlikely their joy is genuine. Ours is.
Who is the richest person in the world?
The top five richest people in the world have a combined net worth of $825 billion. Who takes the crown for the richest person in the world?
By Vaishali Varu Published
Top 10 stocks with highest growth over past decade - from Nvidia, Microsoft to Netflix, which companies made you the most money?
We reveal the 10 global companies with the biggest returns since 2013. One firm has posted an astonishing 9,870% return, meaning a £1,000 investment would now be worth almost £82,000.
By Ruth Emery Published