Peter Sharkey: Diary of a Share Punter
As investors have become much savvier and the internet's phenomenal scope widened, so the decisions made by fund managers and the charges they levy have come under the microscope.
Recent research by the US fund analysis firm Morningstar.com concluded that: 'If there's anything in the whole world of fund investing that you can take to the bank, it's that… in every single time period and data point tested, low-cost funds beat high-cost funds.'
No surprises there then, but few, if any, investors expect a fund manager to act on their behalf for nothing. Indeed, I'm a great believer of tapping into their expertise and experience, regularly buying investment trusts and OEICS which have an international focus, though I'm less inclined to buy UK-facing funds. Nevertheless, I recently mulled over the possibility of buying some UK equity income funds and began to sift through the whole gamut of such investments.
According to Trustnet.com, there are 124 such funds and it was here that my search began.
On occasion, it's easier to delete what you don't want from an investment when you start the filtering process and so I eliminated anything deemed to be 'high risk' and any which did not reinvest dividend income. I then sorted the funds according to ratings given them by Standard & Poor's and two other organisations. This reduced the number to 50, three of which, with the most consistent ratings, stood out.
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Top of this list was the Blackrock UK Income fund, yielding 3.61pc and boasting above-average annual growth of 14.7pc. It operates a savings plan (from �50 a month), though the fund's total expense ratio (TER) was 1.67pc.
Next came Hambro's UK Equity Income fund, another decent performer in terms of growth (up by more than 12pc) and yielding 3.88pc. It offered no savings plan, though its TER was 1.6pc. Finally, Standard Life's UK Equity Higher Income fund made the shortlist. It was the cheapest of the trio, had a TER of 1.59pc and yielded 3.79pc.
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What struck me about the three was the similarity of their respective holdings – albeit that the information released to would-be investors is slightly out of date. Nonetheless, when I looked a week or two ago, each fund held a generous proportion of shares in Vodafone (yield 5.9pc), Shell (6.8pc), GSK (5.4pc) and HSBC (4.3pc).
So, I ventured, what if I held more of those shares than I already do? Would their growth performance differ if they were held by me instead of a fund manager? Unlikely. Are they expensive to hold? Well, I would have to buy them, but that's it and what about dividends?
The average anticipated dividend return of the four shares above is, at the time of writing, 5.6pc. Of the three funds, the best anticipated yield was 3.88pc. In gross cash terms, that represents a difference of 44pc. No prizes for guessing which option I took.