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Fidelity’s split decision poses IFA challenge

Everybody accepts that Fidelity had to do something. Anthony Bolton could not have continued to manage the special situations fund for ever.

The fund, at 5.4bn, is increasingly unwieldly and any one manager selected to try and maintain its performance would have had the odds stacked against him or her.

So Fidelity has decided to split the fund, with one part managed by Bolton until 2006 and the other until 2007. Bolton will be involved in selecting his two successors. It is likely that one half will adopt a greater European bias and may be the one that Bolton remains managing for two years.

The firm has raised the initial charge to 5.25per cent – a soft close – something it insists was necessary to protect existing policyholders with regular savers unaffected which has provoked the ire of one or two intermediaries.

The question is, what could Fidelity have done differently? Not raising charges could have led to a last-minute rush. They could also have named the succeeding managers – something which might have satisfied those IFAs who wanted more certainty. The split in the fund appears to make sense – it could not realistically be split into two UK funds.

The reaction of the multi-managers will be interesting if they decide to make their views public or even influence the direction of the funds in future.

It will also be interesting to see how rivals react with offers or plans to take some of the money which is expected to transfer.

As for IFAs, the fund will come off most buy lists but is it a hold or a sell? Advisers will have lost what was a very easy sell on arguably the closest thing in fund management to a sure thing.

The move may also challenge a lot of IFAs in their portfolio planning. IFAs have moved increasingly away from being fund pickers, so the rationale for any transfers out of the fund may be different now from what it would have been a few years ago.

Advisers’ main priority will be to look after their existing clients. Fidelity should do all it can to make explaining things to them as easy as possible.



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