James Coney  

Love of passive is blind

James Coney

James Coney

End of the peer

The peer-to-peer sector is having a torrid time at the moment.

A ropey stock-market float, rising defaults, plunging returns, contingency funds running dry and, most unnervingly, a torrent of complaints from unhappy savers.

These customers, the early adopters, should be the ones who are raving about P2P, but they have decided that uncertain returns of 2 per cent without the safety net of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme are not worth the risk. So they have gone back to the banks.

This is a legacy problem.

The media-friendly P2P bosses very much sold the industry as an alternative to the banks.

It was attractive to younger, more ambitious savers, and the bosses talked up the sector while trying to downplay as many of the risks as possible.

It was very much savings, not investments, we were told.

That is just not the case, and now customers are finding out to their cost.

Rush to judgment?

Clearly, judging fund management performance over one year is not ideal.

But it was worth checking to see how well funds in the Hargreaves Lansdown Wealth 50 had done since it was launched in January last year.

The outcome: 33 out of the original 61 have underperformed their index.

Hargreaves Lansdown says it is not fair to assess the results over such a short period.

Only, has it not done so itself?

The original 61 is now 56, having dumped funds such as M&G Recovery just months after including it in the new list because of the rigorous research the company had done.

What a stock-picking disaster.

James Coney is money editor of The Times and The Sunday Times