The best-performing stocks and shares ISAs over 25 years

We reveal the best-performing stocks and shares ISAs from the past 25 years, and how much they are worth now

Stock market financial growth chart
(Image credit: Yuichiro Chino)

ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) have turned 25 years old today (6 April) after launching back in 1999, and they have aged well for many. 

The tax-free savings accounts started with a £7,000 allowance- increased to £20,000 in 2017. The introduction of ISAs included traditional cash ISAs and stocks and shares ISAs, with almost £456bn invested in stocks and shares ISAs, new data by investment platform AJ Bell reveals. 

According to Hargreaves Lansdown (HL), if you invested £1,000 into a cash ISA at launch, it could be worth £1,864 today based on a typical rate of interest. If you invested £1,000 in a global tracker, it could be worth £4,094 today.

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Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at HL, says: “The ISA has come a long way in 25 years.

“In the early days, when investors were still lamenting the loss of their predecessors – TESSAs and PEPs, few would have predicted it would become a vital cornerstone of millions of portfolios, attracting cash from around 12 million people annually, and saving us an incredible £6.7 billion tax in a year.”

HL investors paid in £8.43 billion into stocks and shares ISAs in 1999. Fast-forward to 2021/22, the platform’s users invested a whopping 66.9 billion. 

If you invested in a stocks and shares ISA back in 1999, find out if it has made the list of the best-performing funds and how much it could be worth today. 

Best-performing stocks and shares ISAs

New data from HL reveals the best-performing ISA shares and funds if you invested £1,000 in them when they launched in 1999, and how much they are worth now.

  • Diploma takes the top spot. If you invested £1,000 into the company back in 1999, the share would be worth a whopping £276,228 today. 
  • Marlborough Special Situations wins as the top fund. £1,000 invested on day one of ISAs would be worth £25,614 today. 
  • HSBC's Indian Equity fund would return £22,252. While they provided notably higher returns than a global tracker fund, they did so with a lot more ups and downs. 

Hal Cook, senior investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown says the HSBC Equity fund experienced more than double the annual volatility of a global tracker, and of the 12-month periods analysed since the end of March 1999, the fund was only less volatile at 3% of the time. The same figures for Marlborough Special Situations are 23% and 25%.

If you invested in JD Sports (JD), you would be sitting on £217,181. Though, Cook warns investors: “As anyone who has held JD Sports recently knows, there’s always the possibility for a company that has been riding high to hit a really sticky patch. 

“At the start of January, the King of Trainers warned that sales had grown by less than expected and the shares fell 20% in early trading. Of course, investing in single company shares always involves more concentrated risk than a fund, so isn’t right for everyone."

Best ISA funds to invest now 

Experts say it is not too late to invest your money. Cook adds: “These figures show the rewards reaped by those who got in at the beginning, but we don’t need to lose sleep over the growth we’ve missed. 

“Instead, it’s worth looking to the future and taking advantage of ISAs now. The right assets and approaches will depend on your circumstances and objectives, but these figures show that if you’re putting money away for the long term, it’s well worth considering a stocks and shares ISA.”

According to AJ Bell, a stocks and shares ISA holder will invest double what a cash ISA holder saves in their account each year on average. 

Some of the most popular ISA funds currently include Vanguard and Fidelity. Read more on the most popular ISA funds

If you prefer the safety of a savings account over investing in shares, you can also opt for a cash ISA – currently offering more than 5%. Remember, you can put up to £20,000 across your ISA portfolio and shield your savings or investments from the taxman each tax year. 

Vaishali Varu
Staff Writer

Vaishali has a background in personal finance and a passion for helping people manage their finances. As a staff writer for MoneyWeek, Vaishali covers the latest news, trends and insights on property, savings and ISAs.

She also has bylines for the U.S. personal finance site and Ideal Home, GoodTo, inews, The Week and the Leicester Mercury

Before joining MoneyWeek, Vaishali worked in marketing and copywriting for small businesses. Away from her desk, Vaishali likes to travel, socialise and cook homely favourites