Aim: Growth by investing in socially responsible companies via Norwich Union funds.
Minimum investment: Lump sum £500 monthly £50.
Investment split: Any proportion of corporate bond, UK growth, absolute growth, global growth, managed and European growth.
Isa link: Yes.
Pep transfers: Yes except absolute growth and global growth.
Charges: Initial 4 per cent, annual – corporate bond fund 1 per cent, all other funds 1.5 per cent.
Special offer: Initial charge reduced to 3 per cent.
Offer period: Until March 30, 2001.
Commission: Initial 3 per cent, renewal – corporate bond fund 0.25 per cent, all other funds 0.5 per cent.
Tel: 0845 3022557.
Suitability to market 8.3
Investment strategy 8.3
Past performance 7.0
Companys reputation 8.8
Product literature 6.5
Norwich Union has introduced sustainable future, an open ended investment company (Oeic) that invests in socially responsible companies via a series of Norwich union funds.
Looking at how the fund fits into the market, Hulbert is not impressed. He says: "It is better late than never, I suppose for this me too product."
Flowers on the other hand says: "The fund opens up a new segment of the market, as it is a cross between an ethical fund and a thematic fund. As a result it is a refreshing change."
Henry adds: "These funds are very good news for the market. Although they are still in their infant stage, they are becoming more and more acceptable to the ordinary people who have the greatest need for such products, which will help to sustain life in the poorer countries of the world."
Lynch says: "Ethical investments are becoming increasingly mainstream, so this product should fit well. The tax credits announced in the 2001 budget for companies investing in environmental initiatives should also assist this type of fund."
Turning to the type of client that the fund is suitable for, Flowers says: "This is for most investors with an ecological, environmental or social awareness."
Henry says: "This is for clients who are financially sound, and who have the ability to make a difference economically and socially." Hulbert is more exact. He says: "This fund is suitable for the large minority of socially responsible middle England investors."
Lynch adds: "The product is suitable for the increasing number of clients who seek to invest thoughtfully, whilst still seeking profit – but profit without guilt."
The panel are split when it comes to examining the marketing opportunities that the product will provide. Hulbert cannot see any additional opportunities, while Flowers says: "The opportunities are limited, in that it will need to be preceded by an education process on the value – from an investment perspective – of the sustainability story."
However Lynch disagrees. She says: "I expect to use the topic of ethical or socially responsible funds at seminars and in our next newsletter. There is certainly a good deal of interest out there at the moment."
Henry says: "The product will create a wider choice of funds to select from, thus giving us the chance to market clients who are familiar with the Norwich Union brand. They would be more comfortable to do business, especially knowing that they are with a reputable company."
Evaluating the main useful features of the fund the panel is again divided. Hulbert says: "This product offers nothing special that is not already available."