International's with-profits bonds comes as the firm begins to advertise on the TV once more to improve its name awareness.
For the majority of advisers, the with-profits option is an attractive alternative, partic- ularly during these times of stockmarket volatility. There is also no doubt that more and more advisers are now looking to use offshore products for tax planning for clients and this is emphasised with the low minimum investment into the scheme.
In the past, Widows has had an excellent reputation, if not for good investment returns, certainly for fairness in its dealing in the market, giving policyholders a fair value on what it had achieved on their money.
Where I feel the bond will be attractive is with the use of withprofits with the ability to access external fund managers. This should give clients a good balanced portfolio by accessing some of the external investment houses, all with the tax efficiency of the offshore investment plan.
My only concern about these types of plans is we are already being chastised by the regulatory authorities about the level of commission payable on onshore with-profits bonds. The commission on these offshore routes tends to be even higher and our belief is that commission levels should be reducing onshore and offshore.
I think it is an important addition to the overall investment funds from Widows International although I do not think it is one we as a company would be interested in putting large chunks of clients' money into.
Alan Adam is a consultant at Alan Steel Asset Management