28 August 2006

WITH PROFITS & INVESTMENT BONDS

WITH PROFITS & INVESTMENT BONDS

Literally billions of pounds remain invested in With Profits Funds, as they were the investment of choice for many Independent Financial Advisers & Bank based Advisers over several decades.

Investments issued by Life Assurance Companies (as opposed to their Unit Trust Divisions) such as With Profit Bonds are generally highly inefficient from a tax point of view. They are ideally suited to individuals paying Income Tax at 40% and habitually utilising their annual Capital Gains Tax (CGT) Allowances.

However, the vast majority of With Profit Bond Investors are not in that category. All income and gains within the Bond are taxable on the Provider and you are unable to use your annual CGT Allowance, which currently allows you to draw profits of up to £8,800 per annum tax-free, to offset this tax.

A recent report, commissioned by the Government and drawn-up by Industry Expert, Ron Sandler, concluded that there were a series of concerns about with-profits products from the perspective of competition and efficiency. In particular, the review highlighted the opacity of with-profits in terms of being able to ascertain the true returns on the funds invested. The review also focused on value-for-money, in so far as charges are not routinely reported to investors in the way they are for other investment products. The ability for the Provider to make unilateral decisions on bonus payouts was also criticised.

From double digit bonuses in the late 1980s and early 1990s returns have in some cases collapsed. Some Bonds issued by previously leading With Profits Providers are paying nothing in the way of Annual Bonuses and many others are paying less than 1% per annum. Even the current market leaders are paying no more than 3.25% per annum.With some Bonds, following the recent strong performance of share markets, there is no longer a Market Value Reduction (MVR) (some provider prefer to call this a Market Value Adjustment (MVA)) being applied.

With other Bonds the MVR has been reduced, but not removed altogether. Unfortunately, however, a number of Providers are continuing to maintain high MVRs. Many in this latter category have not participated in the recovery in share markets because the Actuary has forced the Investment Managers to substantially reduce the exposure to this asset class. In this case there is a "double whammy" - the likelihood that the MVR may never be removed and continuing poor long-term returns, meaning little or no profits to distribute by way of bonuses.

With the relatively high Stockmarket content to the underlying portfolio, which is what gives rise to the MVRs, With Profits Funds are generally outside of the risk profile of many Investors.

If you believe that you have been mis-sold your investment bond – please contact me to start your financial claim on a no-win no fee basis. We charge a flat fee of 10% (inclusive) on any compensation awarded. No other hidden costs.

Email: info@easy4life.com
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