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‘School fees’ funds: The mixed assets of the future?

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Fund managers may offer ‘school fees’ or ‘paying the bills’ products rather than mixed investments in future, according to Threadneedle’s head of distribution.

Nick Ring said the government’s pension reforms have heightened the need to offer outcome-orientated products: “People do not really understand what mixed investments means.

“Down the line, managers may create the pension product, or the school fees product, or the paying the bills product. If the regulator allows this, it is what we should be doing.”

In its attempts to understand the needs of consumers, Threadneedle has contacted customers asking them whether they might be interested in acting as a voice for their fellow investors. The firm is developing customer panels to survey roughly 300 active investors on their views of risk.

Ring said clients tend to be professionals or middle managers: “Their investment knowledge is reasonably good. The risk to us is that there could be an element of over-confidence.”

In the meantime, Investec Asset Management managing director David Aird said he is “absolutely devastated” by the lack of trust in the asset management industry. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that fund managers are the least trusted of all financial services professionals.

Fund managers need to avoid launching products in the “last hurrah” of a bull market, he argued: “If you think about longevity and the liabilities of a client going into retirement, actually we should be thinking about five- to ten-year cycles.

“A product could spend five years in research and development without even seeing the light of day. Then the next five to ten years could be spent getting traction in the market,” he said. “A fund manager can then invest with a long track record.”

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