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Mix stock selection with Schroders

Schroders – Schroder UK Alpha Plus Fund

Type: Unit trust

Aim: Growth by investing in equity securities of UK companies

Minimum investment: Lump sum £1,000, monthly £50

Investment split: 100% in equity securities of UK companies

Isa link: Yes

Pep transfers: Yes

Charges: Initial 5.25%, annual 1.5%. Isa initial 3.25%

Commission: Initial 3%. Isa renewal 0.5%

Tel: 0800 718777

Broker Panel: –

Mark Dampier, Head of research, Hargreaves Lansdown

John Holian, Certified financial planner, Maunby Investment Management

Philip Milton, Managing director, Philip J Milton & Company

Jonathan Webster-Smith, Research analyst, Brooks Macdonald

John Wright, Proprietor, Investment Management Services

Broker Ratings: –

Suitability to market 8.0

Investment strategy 8.0

Past performance 7.0

Company&#39s reputation 7.8

Charges 6.4

Commission 6.8

Product literature 7.0

Schroders has introduced its Schroder UK alpha plus fund, a unit trust that invests in the equity securities of UK companies.

Looking at how the fund fits into the market, Dampier says: &#34It fits in with the newer breed of focus funds, funds looking to achieve absolute returns rather than looking for returns against the benchmark.&#34

Holian thinks that with the markets moving down and the uncertainty of future direction, a more active approach is needed. He says: &#34A fund independent of the index may achieve this and should show some demand.&#34

Milton says: &#34The theme of core investing has been gathering momentum. For a long time we have been concerned at the dominance of a limited range of stocks in our indices, brought by size not value or quality.&#34

Webster-Smith thinks the fund is a best ideas fund that seeks to exploit market volatility. He says: &#34Not being tied to an index the fund manager is free to select the stocks and sectors that he believes will outperform the market.&#34

Wright feels that it fits into the market quite well, another slant on how to achieve something from UK equities.

Identifying the type of client the fund is suitable for, Milton says: &#34I suggest anyone, as part of a balanced remit. The limited stock range could increase volatility so a spread of such funds could be imperative.&#34

Dampier feels it would be ideal for most clients, he says: &#34It could be used in a core or satellite approach. I believe most clients will empathise with this product, believing most fund managers would buy what they feel is going up and not buy shares just because they are a large part of the index.&#34

Webster-Smith thinks the fund is suitable for a client that has a diversified portfolio and one who is prepared to accept above average risk in order to achieve greater reward.

Holian says: &#34The more adventurous investor and those with larger portfolios looking for some focused investment in the UK market.&#34 Wright thinks the fund is suitable for Isa clients.

Turning to the marketing opportunities the fund will provide, Dampier says: &#34The product is ideal for today&#39s markets where a traditional buy to hold strategy is less likely to work. It is in fact the antithesis of a tracker and there will be marketing opportunity in exploiting a more active approach.&#34

Milton thinks there will be some marketing opportunities, while Wright says: &#34None at this time as investors are rare.&#34

Analysing the main useful features and strong points of the fund, Milton says: &#34A good strategy, no benchmarking, confidence in its views is both a pro and a con.&#34

Holian says: &#34It has a focused approach to investment and searches for good ideas and applies them without restraints of an index or set allocation.&#34

Wright thinks the fund seems to be providing a truly managed approach to UK equity investment as opposed to following the crowd.

Webster-Smith says: &#34This is a best ideas fund that is unconstrained by index components. It aims to identify the out performers and to provide absolute returns. The performance of fund manager Richard Buxton will thus be judged by this.&#34

Dampier lists its ability to use other instruments, i.e. cash and gilts, and its flexibility to see absolute and not relative returns. As top down strategy is its key differential against other focus funds.

Discussing the investment strategy, Webster-Smith says: &#34Given current market volatility, I believe the fund has adopted the best investment strategy to give it the best possible chance of providing absolute returns. The fund aims simply to identify those stocks that will provide the greatest return.&#34

Dampier says: &#34Stockmarkets over the next decade are going to look very different. Therefore investment strategies need to change. This fund looks set to exploit these differences, the fund does look to be genuinely different from others.&#34

Wright is keen on this non-conformist approach. Milton feels the investment strategy is sensible, but could have been done better being launched and shouted from the rooftops in 2000. He says: &#34Big company shares are now becoming more attractive because they have fallen so much.&#34
Holian thinks it is good and appropriate for current markets, where there are obviously still some companies growing and succeeding.

Turning to the fund&#39s disadvantages, Milton says: &#34Have I missed anything about anticipated yield? Value investors appreciate income, especially with capital values being low and high yields easier to acquire. A mistake or two could be detrimental to overall performance for some time to come because of limited diversity.&#34

Wright does not see any obvious drawbacks of the fund other than general market conditions at this time. Webster-Smith believes that should the fund manager pick the wrong stocks then your investment could potentially suffer considerably.

Holian says: &#34It will invest in a very small number of stocks so if one idea goes very wrong the funds suffers more. There is a lack of track record for this type of investment.&#34

Dampier thinks its flexibility and partial top-down approach could magnify mistakes, its strategy will mean it being potentially more volatile in the short term.

Looking at Schroder&#39s reputation, Milton describes it as very acceptable. &#34The groups own share price performance is languishing however,&#34 he says.

Holian says: &#34They are a quite large company, long established with a well-known name.&#34 Webster-Smith thinks Schroders has an excellent reputation as an investment house. It has dedicated research teams with proven track records and has years of experience managing funds that have consistently ranked in the top quartile.

Dampier says: &#34Schroders went through a particularly rough patch a few years ago, but have been coming out of it. Under head of retail investment David Gasparro the UK team have been sorted out, clearly you don&#39t attract people of Butchers reputation without having something to offer.&#34

Discussing the fund&#39s main competition, the panel list Gartmore focus, New Star UK aggressive, RSA UK prime.

The panel agree that the charges and commission are fair and reasonable, although Milton thinks the charges seem as bit high.

Looking at the product literature, Webster-Smith thinks it is well presented, clear and offers brief answers to a wide variety of potential questions. Wright says: &#34It keeps restating the same point over and over.&#34 Dampier thinks it is excellent and Holian says: &#34Quite brief and to the point.&#34

Milton says: &#34Ok, but a bit grey. Perhaps that&#39s best for the current climate.&#34

Summing up Webster-Smith says: &#34The Schroders fund is launching at a time when markets are at a six year low, despite the encouraging UK macroeconomic date. The opportunity to pick up stocks at fair value gives this fund the perfect starting opportunity.&#34

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