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You are here:  FE Trustnet     Education        Fund Supermarket Guide

Fund Supermarket Guide


What fund supermarkets are available to investors?
Choosing a fund supermarket from the plethora on offer may seem like a daunting prospect, as no two appear to have the same qualities. The investor may find that only one supermarket carries the fund he or she wants to invest in. If this is not the case, recognising the supermarket models available and the markets they are aimed at may help with selection.

The range of funds available from a supermarket is naturally an important aspect of its appeal to investors and many are highly competitive over the issue. The majority of fund supermarkets offer direct funds such as unit trusts and OEICs, offshore or onshore investment bonds and saving accounts such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs); very few include investment trusts in their range.

Be aware that a group can be represented in more than one supermarket, but have different funds listed in each. There may also be a difference in the discount offered on initial charges. Some fund supermarkets are structured so that investors can only purchase ISAs. The supermarket model can be particularly suitable for ISA investment. Many allow a mix and match of funds from the range of different providers in one ISA wrapper, leading to increased options without any extra charge, and the ability to view this in one portfolio. The supermarket becomes a single ISA manager even though funds are selected from several different management groups.

Types of Fund Supermarket
Fund supermarkets are generally divided into two categories, the direct investment service aimed at private investors (also known as the business to consumer model) and the IFA service (business to business) often with additional facilities. The growth of the supermarket sector, however, has created further variations on these two, some of which are explained below:

Aimed at the private investor
Fidelity FundsNetwork ( ) has a prominent presence in the market. The self-directed investor can access a fund search, educational material, charting tool and portfolio, and invest in a mix and match ISA. The operation also offers 'fund packages': ready-made portfolios containing funds from a mixture of management groups. Lump sum investments can be processed entirely online; monthly payments have to be set up by downloading and posting a form. There is no extra charge for use of this supermarket, which also has an IFA site. Other fund supermarket models aimed at the private investor include those tied to a bank or building society account, where transactions in the supermarket can only take place after an account is opened, and investment with the assistance of a regulated advisory service which may come with a fee.

Aimed at the Independent Financial Adviser
Cofunds ( ) is intended only for the intermediary. Use of the supermarket is free. Transactions are conducted over the phone or online, although IFAs still have to sign and return a form to become an authorised user. IFAs have access to a client portfolio facility and online consolidated statements. This type of supermarket is used by IFAs predominantly as a back office facility.

IFA offering a fund supermarket
Many Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) are able to offer their fund supermarket through a 'white labelled' version of the major supermarkets, such as Fidelity's FundsNetwork or Cofunds. They allow IFAs to take the principal's web site and brand it as their own. It means the customer can access the same IFA facilities, although direct investment through the supermarket is also offered, and take advantage of the funds and tools (such as an account management tool) offered through the supermarket. There may be an extra fee for purchasing funds through an ISA with an IFA supermarket.

Discount broker offering a fund supermarket
A discount broker provides an execution only dealing service, which means that they offer no advice on what funds the private investor might purchase. With this traditional concept in mind, you would expect the fund supermarket of a discount broker to offer no additional facilities and focus entirely on fund charges, but this is not always the case. Some of them have online tools, such as a portfolio management facility and educational guidance. Be aware that although initial fund charges are low, other fees, such as administration costs, may be required. Many discount broker fund supermarkets offer 'white-labelled' versions of the major supermarkets, similar to the IFA version.

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