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The Year Ahead

Tipped to do wellStability at F&C Asset Management following its merger with Isis could see renewed interest from investors. It had major upheaval as key managers and analysts left but F&C’s investment team looks ready to benefit from the new structure. However, it must recover from the loss of reputation on its bond and UK prime funds.

Interest in Franklin Templeton Investments could pick up as it plans a new assault on the UK market. The first few months could be lively for Witan investment trust as investors start to see the results of its much-heralded open architecture.

Could do betterBoutique Unicorn has been urged to look at its structure to encourage Peter Webb to get results in smaller companies after he “paid for the high conviction of his stocks”.

Schroder is going to have to push star UK alpha plus fund manager Richard Buxton to produce some absolute returns after what proved to be his “annus horribilis”.

Ones to watch2005 looks set to the year that Old Mutual select smaller companies offshore fund manager Luke Kerr appears on IFA radar. The manager of the £24m fund has been a popular choice for specialist investment IFAs in the last few months and looks ready for a move into the mainstream.

Fidelity UK aggressive fund manager Sanjeev Shah will be looking to build on the steady growth of his fund over the last 12 months. Although the fund does not have a great longer-term track record, since Shah took over in October 2002, performance has steadily improved and the £137m fund looks ready to be the next hot property.

New Star hidden value portfolio manager Jamie Allsopp is another young talent that IFAs expect to perform well in 2005. His £1.8m fund has been limited by the size of individual investments that can be made in it but it returned 32 per cent last year, prompting a drop in investment limits.

There will be increased attention and expectation heaped on some established managers who have moved investment houses. James Foster and Mike Felton, previously of Isis, and Clive Beagles will all be eagerly expected to produce some impressive results at new stables.

IFAs have a long wish-list for the regulator next year but top of the pile is a request to slow down the rate of change. With IFAs facing depolarisation, mortgage and general insurance regulation, the Insurance Mediation Directive and the approach of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, the industry is desperate for breathing space.

Informed Choice managing director Nick Bamford says: “I would like to ask the FSA not to change anything else for a while and to give us time to get used to how things are now.”

Another plea is for a reduction in FSA fees and FSCS levies which increased dramatically for many IFAs last year.

Bamford would like to see the FSA getting to understand the IFA market better and Dennehy Weller & Co managing director Brian Dennehy wants the regulator to look forward rather than backward.

Tipped to do wellThe outlook for pension providers in 2005 is looking rosier, with a raft of product launches likely to generate interest in the market.

Advisers say winners and losers are harder to pick as different life offices focus on different products in the personal market while an anticipated commission war in the group market may favour those with the deepest pockets.

Fewer providers are seen to be offering allencompassing ranges and are instead seemingly content to focus on specific products. Standard Life is majoring on its Sipp, which some advisers say is a gamble and others say is a masterstroke. The usual suspects – Standard, Norwich Union and Scottish Widows – are tipped to do well.

The group market is set to be a key battleground. Although higher commission can be a winner, Scottish Life’s generous remuneration is not touted to secure it more business while NU must sort out its admin if it wants greater inflows.

Providers will continue to navigate the sea of uncertainty currently surrounding distribution.

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