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in funds

Learn about funds and how to choose the right ones for you.

Important - The information shown is not personal advice, if you are unsure of the suitability of an investment for your circumstances please seek advice. The value of investments can fall as well as rise, so you could get back less than you invest, especially over the short term. We recommend investing for at least 5 years. Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

When you invest in a fund you’re buying a slice of a range of different investments conveniently in one place

If you’re looking for an easy and convenient way to invest, funds are a great place to start. They offer instant diversification and professional management. This makes them a popular choice for both novice and experienced investors, although we always recommend investing for at least 5 years.

A fund is a collection of investments, chosen and run by a fund manager who’s trying to achieve the fund’s investment objective. This could be to grow investors’ capital, or provide a decent level of income.

You’ll receive units, which are your proportion of the overall pot. Funds can be invested in many different types of asset, like shares (which represent part ownership of a business), bonds (which are loans to companies and governments) and property. Some are focused on just one type, and some a mixture.

The basics

When you buy a fund, you’re investing in a variety of investments at a relatively low cost.

If you bought 50 or 100 shares yourself, you’d find a big chunk of your money eaten up by dealing fees and other costs. In a fund you share these costs with all the other investors.

Funds can also let you invest in things which are hard to buy directly – for example shares listed on overseas markets, commercial property or commodities like oil.

As always with investing you’ll need to remember that funds can go down in value, so you could get back less than you put in.

Active and passive management

Actively managed funds are run by a fund manager and team of analysts. They choose the fund’s investments, making changes as needed to keep the fund performing as well as possible. Ideally these funds look to outperform the stock market and other competing funds although there's no guarantees.

Passively managed funds (also known as tracker funds) take a different approach. Rather than trying to do better than the stock market, they track it. So their performance is tied to the ups and downs of the market they’re following.

Both types have their advantages. With no active manager or analysts to pay for, passive funds usually have lower fees. But there’s no potential for outperformance either.

The two main types of fund

There are two common types of funds – unit trusts and open-ended investment companies (OEICs).

  1. Unit trusts are funds that are set up as trusts, and they usually have a buy (‘offer’) and sell (‘bid’) price. The difference between these is known as the bid-offer spread.
  2. OEICs are funds that are set up as companies, and they usually have just one price.

You might see these types referred to, but for most investors the differences aren’t important.

Income and accumulation

Many funds offer different types of unit (or share). The two you’ll see most often are income and accumulation. Some funds offer both types of unit, others offer only one.

With income units, you’ll be paid any income the fund’s investments make (like dividends from the companies the fund invests in, for example).

With accumulation units the income is automatically reinvested into the fund. You don’t receive an income payment – instead the income increases the price of each unit. If you’re investing to grow your money in the long term, you’d usually buy accumulation units.

Dealing in funds

Unlike shares, which are traded continuously when the stock market is open, funds are usually traded once a day.

Each fund has a daily ‘valuation point’, normally at 12 noon. At this time the manager works out the value per unit of the fund’s investments. This is the price at which units are bought and sold. If you place an order to buy or sell a fund, it’ll go through at the next valuation point. This means you won’t know the exact price beforehand.

Fund charges

If you invest in a fund, you’ll pay an ongoing charge to the company managing the fund. This is referred to as the ongoing charges figure (OCF) or total expense ratio (TER), depending on the type of fund. It’s shown as an annual percentage, but is calculated daily and factored into the price of the fund. In rare cases funds also carry a performance fee, paid to the manager if certain targets are met.

You can find full details of a fund’s charges in its Key Investor Information Document.

As well as the fund’s charges, you’ll also pay an annual fee to the company you use to hold your investments. We charge up to 0.45% a year. Full details of our charges are on our website.

Find out more about our charges

Next - How to choose funds

Frequently asked questions about funds

Fund FAQ

When you choose a fund, you need to be sure it’s right for you. Here are four tips to help you get started.

1. Look for good fund managers

The first thing you might be tempted to look at when choosing a fund is how it performed in the past.

But there’s a reason we always say past performance isn’t a guide to the future. While a fund’s track record can help you imagine its future potential, it only shows you part of the picture so it’s not a reliable guide.

Maybe the manager was skilful and chose their investments well, or maybe they made a few lucky choices. Alternatively the area they invest in may have performed particularly well. A fund investing in oil and gas companies, for example, will probably do well when the oil and gas market does well, regardless of the manager’s skills.

Working out which funds are likely to perform well in future is much harder than looking at which have done well in the past. This is where expert research can help. We’ve developed sophisticated mathematical models to help us work out how much of a manager’s performance is down to luck, and how much is down to judgement. We use the results to choose our Wealth 50 list of favourite funds, and also investments for our range of multi-manager funds. More on both of these later.

2. Broaden your horizons

Different investment areas perform well at different times.

Funds are classified into sectors - a fund’s sector will tell you which area of the market it’s invested in. This can be from a geographical point of view, a particular sector such as technology or property, or even different types of businesses, such as smaller companies.

The table shows the annual returns from some of the main sectors over the last decade – you can see that the top performers vary quite a bit from year to year. This is why it’s a good idea to make sure you have funds that invest in different types of assets, and in different parts of the world.

There’s no rule that says you have to have a diversified portfolio, but if you focus on just one particular area, you’ll only be right some of the time.

But it’s also important not to be too diversified. If you have too many investments, your portfolio can only ever be average.

Sector 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Asia Pacific 52.4% 21.4% -16.4% 16.7% 2.2% 9.5% -3.0% 26.6% 24.6% -9.0%
Corporate Bonds 14.3% 6.9% 3.8% 12.3% 0.2% 10.0% -0.5% 8.9% 5.0% -2.2%
Emerging Markets 57.7% 22.9% -19.1% 13.1% -4.2% 2.9% -9.8% 33.1% 24.5% -11.0%
Europe 19.4% 8.4% -15.6% 19.0% 26.0% -0.9% 9.2% 16.9% 17.4% -12.4%
Japan -3.4% 19.3% -11.6% 3.4% 26.1% 0.6% 15.8% 23.6% 17.9% -11.5%
North America 19.1% 17.7% -1.9% 7.5% 31.3% 17.8% 4.7% 31.7% 10.1% -1.7%
UK 30.4% 17.3% -7.1% 15.1% 26.2% 0.5% 4.5% 11.2% 14.0% -11.1%

Past performance is not a guide to future returns. Source: Lipper IM, calendar years 2009-2018

3. Watch for volatility

Before deciding to invest in a fund that’s performed well, it’s a good idea to check its volatility too.

A fund might be doing well because the manager’s taking more risk. This might give you higher returns when the stock market’s rising, but it could backfire if markets turn.

The graph below shows you what we mean. If you only look at performance, you might think Fund A is the best fund – after all, it delivered a profit of almost 60%.

But it’s also been very volatile, which tells you it’s a higher-risk investment.

Fund B on the other hand, performed almost as well as A, but with much less dramatic ups and downs. If you’re looking for a good balance of risk and reward, this would actually be the best fund.

4. Keep an eye on costs

Investment costs can be a drag on your returns. So all things being equal, lower costs are better.

But as with anything you buy, there’s often a trade-off between cost and quality. While it’s always good to try to keep costs down, you don’t want to find yourself compromising on quality.

Sometimes it’s worth paying more to invest with a particularly good fund manager. Remember that the performance of a fund is shown after fund charges have been taken into account. So if a fund performs better than its peers despite higher charges, buying a different investment purely because it was cheaper would have been a false economy.

The same principle applies when choosing where to hold your investments. Some charge more than others, but you’ll need to consider things like security and service. Does the company invest enough in technology to keep your money safe? Does their website work? Can you get through to them on the phone? Do they provide research to help you choose investments?

Next - How to get started

You can choose from over 2,500 funds with us, but that doesn’t mean you need to search through all of them.

You could choose from our experts’ favourites, or opt for a ready-made fund portfolio.

Wealth 50

The Wealth 50 is a shortlist of our favourite funds, both active and passive. Our 20 strong research team crunch the numbers and meet hundreds of fund managers a year to choose what they think are the funds with the very best potential.

We made this list to help you choose funds, but it isn’t advice. If you’re not sure an investment is right for you, we’d suggest you speak to an adviser.

More about the Wealth 50

Multi-manager funds

Multi-manager funds are funds that invest in other funds. They can be a good choice if you know which area you want to invest in, but would rather leave the underlying fund selection to the experts. We have ten multi-manager funds, covering different areas. Each includes a selection of funds run by managers we think are the very best in their field.

The HL Multi-Manager range is managed by our sister company, HL Fund Managers Ltd. Because there’s an extra layer of management, these funds have higher charges. But we think this is outweighed by their performance potential.

More about Multi-Manager funds

Ready-made portfolios

If you’re not sure where to begin, why not choose a ready-made portfolio? There are six portfolios – you can choose to invest for income or growth, and decide whether your risk level is conservative, balanced or adventurous. Then we do the rest.

We built these portfolios using our multi-manager funds (see the previous section).

We rebalance the portfolios twice a year, selling a little of what’s done well, and reinvesting where performance has been poorer. This helps keep the portfolios on their original track, with risk under control.

The portfolios aren’t personal advice, and they aren’t tailored to your circumstances.

The minimum investment is £1,000 and you'll need to keep an eye on your investments to make sure they’re still right for you.

More about Portfolio plus

Financial advice

If you’re in need of more help managing your investments, we also offer financial advice.

Our unique approach means you only pay for the advice you want.

More about advice

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