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Picking with-profits winners

It must be remembered that, like stockmarkets, with-profits goes in cycles. I believe that investments in the right with-profits bonds – those with a high proportion of their underlying investments in equities and commercial property – will do well over the next few years, especially where the provider has a high, realistic free-asset ratio and good investment management.

My recommendation is to get out of all closed with-profits funds unless you need the life cover and cannot get it elsewhere, to stay with companies which have 60 per cent or more invested in equities and commercial property and to take advice on those with less than 60 per cent invested in those sectors.

Investment expertise is of vital importance. For example, Prudential has shown excellent invest- ment returns over the past two years, with its with-profits fund being up by 16.5 and 13.4 per cent in 2003 and 2004. Only Wesleyan beat it in those years although Prudential performed better than Wesleyan in 2002 and 2001.

Wesleyan has a total of 85 per cent invested in equities and property. Another company I like is Liverpool Victoria, with a total of 77 per cent in those two sectors and a first-class investment record.

Scottish Widows has a poor investment record and only 55 per cent in equities and property. Standard Life has a slightly better investment record but only 50 per cent invested in the two sectors. However, it was forced by the FSA to sell equities at the wrong time.

My recommendations are Prudential, Liverpool Victoria and Wesleyan.

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