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Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK’s biggest online investment supermarket for savers, has launched proposals to introduce a new “elite” group of funds that offer the best performance and most competitive fees, despite fund managers’ concerns over the plans.
The FTSE 100 group intends to introduce a top group of 30 or 40 funds that it will promote on its online platform with extensive marketing, fund manager videos, banner advertising and a premium position on its website.
Some fund managers are concerned that Hargreaves, which has sent a consultation document to 150 investment groups, will only put funds in their “elite” or core group if they offer low charges, which will enable Hargreaves to maintain its own margins once new rules on fees are brought in next year.
One fund manager at a big UK institution said: “Clearly a lower charge will probably help. I think investment performance as the consultation document states will be important too, but if there are two very good funds, the one with the lowest fees might get on the elite list.”
Ian Gorham, chief executive of Hargreaves, said: “This is not just about fees. It is about performance too. The best funds will be the ones that charge the most competitive rates, but also offer the best returns. We have sent out this consultation document to outline how we intend to run our business.”
Hargreaves’ move is in response to reforms that mean fund managers and platforms such as Hargreaves, where investors can buy shares online, must state the breakdown of their charges to retail investors to make the industry more transparent.
The rules will come into force in April 2014 as part of the second stage of the retail distribution review. Commission payments from fund managers to financial advisers for new business were banned at the end of 2012 in the first stage.
Platforms are online services that enable investors to buy funds directly, often with discounted charges. However, regulators have become concerned that the way consumers pay for using platforms – by having some of their fund charges given to the platform operator – increases the risk of platforms being biased in favour of certain products.
Hargreaves, which has £35bn of assets under administration, is by far the biggest investment supermarket, offering 2,500 funds to 500,000 clients, mostly in the UK, on its Vantage platform. The funds range from equities to bonds in the UK, Europe, the US and the emerging markets.
Hargreaves has given fund managers until July to respond with their charges and then intends to announce the investment groups that will make the top “elite” tier in September.
Mr Gorham said the new fee structure would be introduced in January.