Investment fund supermarkets face FCA probe

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The City regulator is to examine whether savers get value for money from so-called investment "platforms" - otherwise known as fund supermarkets.

Between 2008 and 2016 investors quintupled the amount of money they put into such platforms, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

Companies such as Hargreaves Lansdown, Nutmeg and Interactive Investor now manage £592bn of savers' money.

The FCA will examine whether such firms help investors make good decisions.

It follows a previous inquiry into those who manage the funds that are sold on investment platforms, which found high levels of profitability.

The study found typical profit margins in the industry of 36% - and concluded that investors should be quoted a single fee, rather than a complex mix of charges.

Savers putting money into investment platforms pay a fee to each fund manager, as well as to the platform itself.

  • FCA cracks down on investment industry charges
  • Vanguard sparks price war amongst investors

"With the increasing use of platforms, and the issues raised by our previous work, we want to assess whether competition between platforms is working in the interest of consumers," said Christopher Woolard, the FCA's executive director of strategy and competition.

"Platforms have the potential to generate significant benefits for consumers, and we want to ensure consumers are receiving these benefits in practice."

The FCA will look at:

  • the impact of platforms on overall charges
  • whether platforms use their bargaining power to negotiate good deals for consumers
  • whether they compete effectively with each other
  • whether their commercial interests are in conflict with the interests of consumers

Price competition

One of the UK's biggest investment platforms, Hargreaves Lansdown, saw its share price hit in May when US firm Vanguard announced a cut-price service for UK investors.

Vanguard plans to charge investors a maximum fee of 0.15% on its tracker funds, capped at £375 a year.

Hargreaves Lansdown charges 0.45% to hold investments in its Vantage service.

The FCA will also look at investment platforms' "model portfolios" where they suggest recommended funds to their clients.


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