But with the latest Capita UK Dividend Monitor reporting that headline UK dividend payouts will rely heavily on Royal Dutch Shell this year, the concentration risk for income investors in the UK remains a key issue.
At the same time, many income stocks such as Rolls-Royce, Rio Tinto, Sainsbury’s and Barclays, among others, have all announced dividend cuts this year.
It is, therefore, not surprising that many are looking to expand their income remit with global, European or emerging market income opportunities, or moving towards closed ended options, where many investment trusts have delivered consecutive dividend increases thanks to a structure that allows them to “smooth” income payments.
Data from FE Analytics shows that for the year to date to April 20 2016 the IA Global Equity Income sector and AIC Global Equity Income sectors have delivered an average return of 5.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively.
This compares to the 2.6 per cent average loss from the AIC UK Equity Income sector and the slightly better average IA UK Equity Income sector return of 0.2 per cent.
The latter faces further issues with the Investment Association (IA) consulting on a change to the yield requirement rule, as revealed by Investment Adviser last month, which has seen some funds ejected from the sector – the most recent being the Rathbone Income fund managed by Carl Stick.
Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, points out: “The current UK Equity Income rules lead to the absurd situation where an income manager can get kicked out of the sector because they have done a good job in growing investors’ capital.
“The key to creating a rising dividend stream for investors is building capital, yet managers are being penalised for this long-term approach.
“It’s positive that the IA is tackling this issue; however, in our view, the proposals reported so far either don’t do enough to ensure investors are getting a premium income, or shove this industry hot potato onto the investor’s plate.”
Nonetheless, the UK Equity Income sector remains one of the most popular in the IA universe recording net retail inflows of £214m in February, beaten only by the IA Targeted Absolute Return sector. But Global Equity Income, which can be seen as a simple diversification option for income, has been less popular with net retail inflows of just £52m in February.
Tom Walker, portfolio manager of the Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust, notes: “For years, UK investors liked the comfort of familiar companies based in their home country. With globalisation, greater movement of goods, capital and labour around the world, and increased uniformity of accounting standards and other regulation, the playing field has been levelled.
“Now, the familiarity of a company to an investor has little to do with where it is domiciled and more to do with how successful it has been. At the end of the day, no single market or region is immune to the shock waves of global macroeconomic events. The diversification benefits of investing globally are undeniable when compared with a single-country portfolio.”
With monetary policy expected to remain accommodative in the near future and with the looming EU referendum in June adding to market uncertainty, investors need to be prepared to look outside their comfort zone if they want to maintain their income levels.
Nyree Stewart is features editor at Investment Adviser