Advisers must avoid fees fury
Fund managers are having to act to head off anger over how much they are charging investors. Advisers must do the same before the fury hits them as well.
So far, uproar about investment advice in the UK has focused on opaque costs and poor selection of products – something fund managers could equally be accused of, and which the RDR is designed partly to address.
The area advisers are not yet getting publicly hammered on is the level, as opposed to the transparency, of their costs. On the face of it, they have less of a problem on this score than fund managers. Of a typical annual charge of 1.5 per cent for a fund, fund managers will typically gobble up half of it, with advisers typically taking 0.5 percentage points and platforms 0.25.
However, Fidelity Worldwide Investment has estimated the typical total cost of owning a fund is 2 per cent a year. If this type of calculation receives acceptance and widespread publicity, fund managers will no longer be seen to be swallowing half of the charge – and advisers will still only be a quarter of a percentage point behind. If advisers outsource their selection of funds to the likes of multi-managers and discretionary fund managers, they will incur a double layer of fund management charges.
All this means that advisers will have to be doing a lot to justify a 0.5 per cent a year charge – almost as much as fund managers are doing to justify 0.75 per cent. One option is for advisers to simply abolish annual charges and take the accepted route of charging a fee for each advice session. The other is for them to take on some of the responsibilities of a multi-manager or a discretionary and pick funds themselves – or pick a low cost model discretionary portfolio and consult with clients every time they change the investments within it.
The RDR may now seem to be pushing advisers towards outsourcing investments. But before their clients realise how expensive investing will become as a result, advisers should assess the advantages of moving in the opposite direction.