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Standard Life Sipp&#39s in

Turning to the investment options available, Lewis says: "A wide choice of Standard Life funds, although the choice of external funds is quite narrow for this type of contract. Other companies such as Winterthur, Norwich Union and Skandia have a wider choice of funds."

Harford feels that the range is in keeping with other providers. Boylan says: "The immediate external fund links are limited, but clients could invest more widely and accept the higher charges. A series of structured portfolios with a lifestyle option would be useful."

Evans calls the options a significant improvement on the core Standard Life personal pension range.

External funds are mentioned when the panel lists the disadvantages of the plan. Lewis says the narrow range of external funds and the high costs for certain volumes are drawbacks.

Evans does not like the fact that there is no access to Standard Life’s with-profits fund, while Boylan can find no obvious disadvantages.

Moving on to the flexibility offered by the plan, Evans says: "A good range of options, as you would expect with a James Hay administered plan."

Harford thinks the flexibility is good, while Boylan calls it adequate. Lewis says: "It is flexible, but not as flexible as others. There is not a big choice of funds."

Considering Standard Life’s reputation, Boylan simply calls it sound. Lewis is more enthusiastic, saying: "Standard Life has an excellent trading name. It is good to deal with from an IFA point of view, and it usually has good staff at its head office."

Evans says: "An excellent reputation, however this sometimes provides an apparent complacency in fund management and product innovation."

Looking at Standard Life’s past performance record, Harford says: "With-profits performance is good, unit-linked is below average overall."

Boylan describes the past performance as worthy but not outstanding, while Lewis says it is usually good, particularly the with-profits performance.

Evans says: "Poor equity and managed performance in recent years, which is why the corporate funds are promoted in this product."

When asked who will provide the main competition for the product, the panel lists products from Winterthur Life, Merchant Investors, Scottish Equitable, Norwich Union, Jupiter, Skandia, NPI, Clerical Medical and Eagle Star.

Boylan’s opinion differs, he says: "It is getting to be a crowded market. There is no main competition. There are the big players, the specialist companies and standalone Sipp shell providers. All have their place."

Harford and Boylan agree that the charges for the product are fair and reasonable, with Boylan adding: "There is a good scale of charges according to the level of investment diversity and service required."

Lewis thinks that generally the charges are fair, but that in some areas they are quite expensive in comparison with some companies. Evans says: "The charges are reasonably competitive, although some of the external links are pricey."

Commenting on the commission, Lewis and Harford think that it is fair and reasonable. Boylan feels it will cover all reasonable intermediary requirements, while Evans calls it a flexible package.

Looking at the product literature, Boylan says: "It’s clear and helpful, I should be happy to give it to my clients."

Evans thinks it is quite dull for an added value product. Lewis says: "Typically standard, white background. Too much text, it could be more user friendly for clients, with more graphs and illustrations." Harford calls the literature average.

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