Westaway says Lifestrategy home bias is being 'dialled down'

Westaway says Lifestrategy home bias is being 'dialled down'

Vanguard's European head of investment strategy has said the company is "dialling down" the home bias in its Lifestrategy range.

Peter Westaway said this was being done in part because of the changing "commercial case" surrounding the issue.

The Lifestrategy range has traditionally had a much larger exposure to the UK than the rest of the market.

At the moment the Vanguard Lifestrategy 100% Equity fund has a 22 per cent exposure to the UK, while the Investment Association Global sector has a 7.3 per cent exposure to the UK.

But Westaway said: "Since Lifestrategy was launched there used to be a much larger home bias. There is a process where we review features of the funds such as its home bias and we have been gradually dialling it down.

"There is still a demand out there for people in the UK to have a slight home bias but that tendency is shrinking all the time.

"Increasingly there are people asking the question. That’s the direction of travel and it is a matter of opportunistically dialling it down."

Westaway said he felt the home bias would end up helping the Lifestrategy range because Vanguard believes UK returns will be "quite strong".

Giulio Renzi Ricci, senior investment strategist at Vanguard, added: "If we are receiving more questions about the home bias, that shows what Vanguard has brought to the table because we used to have the lowest home bias.

"If there is that question, it shows Vanguard has added value there. It is the right question to ask."

The Lifestrategy range recently marked a decade of being available in the UK.

Over that 10-year period its funds have generally outperformed their IA sectors, with the Lifestrategy 100% Equity fund returning 224 per cent and the IA Global sector returning 220 per cent.

But more recently some of its funds have underperformed their sectors, with the Lifestrategy 100% Equity fund returning 23.9 per cent and the IA Global sector returning 24.7 per cent over the past year.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the Lifestrategy range is its bond holding, which is fixed but which has come under pressure recently as inflation returned and talk of tighter monetary policy increased.

Westaway said: "The one [criticism] we hear most often as the one which is presaging the demise of Lifestrategy is the bond weighting and our view is that it often misunderstands the role of bonds in the portfolio.

"They are primarily there to act as a stabiliser. So when equities have a lean patch, bonds are there to counteract.

"Of course the expected return on bonds is pretty woeful but overall total returns have come down for bonds and equities.

"Thinking about why I have got bonds in there in the first place, it is to provide that stabilising role in the portfolio."