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Scottish Widows goes for strategy

Considering the investment strategy, Moseley says: "Very limited investment options. The investment strategy seems okay." Stather points out that investment grade bonds are now highly priced. He feels that prices might not fall, but such bonds unlikely to provide capital growth. He adds that there will be more opportunity for capital growth with high yield issues, but notes that these are riskier.

Wilkins says: "A good selection of benchmark indices on which to judge performance, although the fund is initially restricted to stocks lower than AA+ rated."

Hawksworth thinks that the combination of investment areas should produce the high yield without exposing the fund to too high a risk profile. Fox feels that Scottish Widows has "missed the boat" in terms of the type of market currently being experienced.

The panel has a mixed opinion of the disadvantages of the Isa. Stather says: "There is no mention of any aim to maintain capital value. If you take income, erosion of capital value appears likely."

Wilkins feels that the product suffers from not having the highest yield, being restricted to below AA+ stocks, and will be disadvantaged by a potential interest rate rise.

Fox says: "Companies are not currently meeting bond repayments." Hawksworth can see no major drawbacks, while Moseley picks up on the limited investment choice.

Looking at the company’s reputation Hawksworth says: "Scottish Widows has a good reputation with the general public thanks to its widow in the advertising campaigns. It does not enjoy the same reputation within the industry due to its administration problems, both now and in the past."

Stather calls its reputation good for insurance and poor for investments, Fox says average, while Moseley says: "Its investment management can only be described as mediocre. Most of its trusts seem well below average."

Moving on to Scottish Widows’ past performance record Stather says: "Undistinguished, it has lost its ‘good’ team." Moseley calls it terrible, while Fox puts it somewhere between poor and average.

Wilkins says: "Not so good in recent years", while Hawksworth describes it as quite volatile in the past, with several major errors of judgement relating to their income funds.

When asked to identify products that will provide the main competition, the panel list funds from Aberdeen, M&G, Norwich Union, Perpetual, Fidelity, Threadneedle, Schroder, Gartmore, Invesco Perpetual, ABN Amro, Henderson, Skandia, Cofunds, Legal & General and Jupiter.

Considering whether the charges are fair and reasonable Moseley says: "Charges seem high." Stather agrees, while Fox feels they are pretty reasonable.

Wilkins describes the charges as: "In keeping with the market." Hawksworth says: "An initial charge of 3.5 per cent is reasonable. The annual management fee is acceptable to cover costs of paying monthly income."

Fox, Stather and Hawksworth agree that the commission is fair and reasonable. Moseley calls it totally standard and nothing innovative, and Wilkins also says it is the industry standard.

Opinions vary on the product literature, with Stather calling it dull and Fox calling it plain and concise. Moseley feels it is alright if a bit dull.

Hawksworth says: "The continued use of the widow makes the brochures look attractive. The literature is easy to read but might be better if it was A5 size. The proposal form should include the money laundering statement."

Wilkins calls it the same old Scottish Widows’ stuff, but adds that it is reasonably informative.

Summing up, Moseley calls the Isa: "A boring product from an uninspiring company". Stather adds: "The product is unimaginative and lacks special features."


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