Star funds and market bears

Financial Adviser

One of the most challenging concepts to grasp as a novice investor is that putting one's money into stock market investments means it is not as safe as putting it into a bank, relatively speaking.

In these current low interest rate, moderate inflation times, one still loses money by putting funds in the bank – which is more akin to a frog not aware that he is being boiled to death when the temperature is raised slowly.

Still, investors, and indeed advisers, do like a safe bet and in the active world that has created the star culture. Such was the pulling power of Neil Woodford, that his first fund set up under his own name drew in £1.6bn in the first two weeks following launch in 2014.

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Likewise, everyone fretted when Anthony Bolton left Fidelity the first time, with investors questioning whether his successor to the Special Situations fund, Sanjeev Shah, had what it took to continue the success.

And so fears about the latest star moves from Schroders – Paul Marriage and John Warren - who will take their UK Dynamic Absolute Return funds to their new venture, Tellworth Investments, mean that once again a big fund manager faces losing funds due to stars leaving.

There is no easy solution: one must make a trade-off between how much one is willing to pay a fund manager in terms of charges, for the benefit of supposed strong returns beating the market, although this is no one-way bet; or one must cut one's losses and go passive, for the benefit of lesser charges eating into one's returns.

In the current frothy markets, perhaps this seems more attractive, given that one is likely to get good returns, and without having to pay very much for it.

But the stock market bears are already starting to call the markets, saying they are overheating, in which case now more than ever it is better to plan for the worst, and take sound advice. As a famous Warren Buffett quote goes: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful".

This article has been amended to reflect the fund flows into Neil Woodford's first fund