Back the finance revolution

Crowdfunding isn't the safest of investments, says Merryn Somerset Webb - but it is worth a look.

There is political and financial disruption all over the place this week. There are the Indian election results, the spat between China and Vietnam, the European elections and, of course, the popping of the Chinese real estate bubble (finally!). But turn your attention to some disruption closer to home.

Our cover story looks at how you can invest in new companies via crowdfunding platforms. This isn't something you want to do with more than 10% of your investable funds, but it is something you should take a look at.

Buying sensible listed equities and holding them for the long term will make you rich slowly. But investing in the right, exciting companies at the very start of their lives might just make you rich a little faster.

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Our fantastic new deputy editor Ed Bowsher looks at the best platforms and points to a few companies you might want to help out with their equity raising efforts.

If you want to be involved in the financial revolution without putting your money at quite so much risk, you might want to look instead at peer-to-peer lending whereby you use a platform to lend your money directly to companies.

This cuts out the banks and so should get both you and the borrower better rates. I've been looking at this again and am about to lend out a little money via Money&Co a new platform which comes with the bonus of having a long-term MoneyWeek reader on its board.

Those of you who don't want the bother of choosing platforms and investments yourself might want to look at the upcoming launch of a new investment trust P2P Global Investments.

The idea and it isn't a bad one is to cherry pick the loans on offer on all the platforms. The managers say they have good relationships with the platforms in both the UK and the US, and will use an algorithmic selection process to pick the best loans out there.

Assuming they get it right, investors will end up with a long-term yield in the region of 6%-8%. It sounds good. So should you invest (dealing should start at the end of the month)?

I love the idea I like investment trusts and I want to invest in financial disruption. But I'm still only going to give P2PGI a lukewarm endorsement. Why? Fees.

The management fee will be 1%; there isn't any real data on what total operating costs to investors will be; and there is a performance fee. Regular readers will know I hate performance fees.

In general, if there is to be one, it should be mitigated by both a super-low management fee and a hurdle that makes sense to you and me (no performance fee in any given year until returns have beaten inflation and deposit account interest rates perhaps).

This is a fund that is modern, innovative and disruptive in its strategy. That's good. But it is also a fund that is gougingly old fashioned in its charging structure. That isn't good.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.