Recently there have been a number of developments that may help these closed-ended vehicles gain the same level of exposure as their open-ended counterparts.
In 2015 the Association of Investment Companies (AIC) reported a significant jump in the number of adviser purchases of trusts in the first nine months of the year. So far in 2016 the organisation adds it has seen continued demand from the adviser community for its training sessions.
Alex Denny, associate director of investment trusts at Fidelity, notes: “This year may be the year that trusts really start to gain traction with financial advisers. Interest has been growing in the sector since the RDR in 2012, but supply-side dynamics have prevented many advisers from using trusts because they could not use their preferred [product] across multiple platforms.
“With FundsNetwork adding trusts in December 2015 and Old Mutual having announced its intention to follow suit, the tide has now turned.”
QuotedData research director James Carthew adds: “It’s very healthy seeing more platforms like Fidelity and Old Mutual offering better accessibility and facilities for buying trusts as they recognise the potential of the industry. This is likely to help push up adviser take-up of trusts.”
Mr Carthew sees the use of trusts “creeping up”, but notes that one obstacle to any significant growth in their use has been advisers outsourcing investment decisions to networks that have not yet adopted the products.
Also of note in the industry was the launch of the AIC’s Flexible Investment sector in January. Director of communications Annabel Brodie-Smith says the new category will help advisers easily compare those trusts investing in a range of assets.
She explains: “It will also be really helpful for investors who want to compare these types of investment companies with similar open-ended firms. The Flexible Investment sector is a diverse sector where each investment company has a different style and strategy.
“Some companies have a capital preservation strategy, while others have a multi-asset investment approach; some target specialist funds and others invest in closed-ended vehicles.”
Mr Carthew observes the category does align trusts with open-ended funds.
“The launch of the new sector also reflects the changing nature of the audience, with advisers and investors looking for off-the-shelf products that provide access to diversified returns from investing globally and across different asset classes,” he notes.
But is it a useful grouping for investors to be able to compare the performance of different strategies?
“Within the Flexible Investment sector, while the trusts may be using different strategies, their multi-asset nature does allow comparison,” Mr Carthew adds.
“Financial advisers will look under the bonnet to evaluate each trust and ascertain which funds are really competing with each other.”
Ellie Duncan is deputy features editor at Investment Adviser