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Fund supermarkets offer an inexpensive route into investing. We’ll look at what they are, how they work, and who should use them.
You know investing in stocks and shares products is a good way to develop a long-term financial growth strategy, but how on earth do you do it, and where do fund supermarkets come in?
Some funds, like company shares, you can easily buy – even by calling the company directly to arrange a share purchase.
However, if you want to dip your toe into the stock exchange, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with other ways to buy stocks and shares.
That’s where fund supermarkets come in. Much like your high-street supermarket, you can buy any investment type that’s for sale to the public from one of these platforms.
But what is a fund supermarket, who should use them, and how do you set yourself up with one?
A fund supermarket is a website that lets you invest in stock market funds, and other investments like bonds, gilt, or index tracker funds. It’s much cheaper than investing directly, too, as transaction fees are kept low.
Costs are kept so low compared to other investment routes because, like Tesco and Aldi, these supermarkets can buy in bulk and sell them to you at a lower cost than independent ‘stores’ (brokers).
Investing in a fund through a stockbroker or managed fund means there’s an initial set-up fee AND an ongoing annual fee to manage your money for you. Fund supermarkets cost half – or even NOTHING – when it comes to set-up fees and also offer much lower annual charges, too.
Fund supermarkets are ideal for investors who want to have a tight control of their financial decisions. However, they do require a lot of research – if you invest in a bad fund, you could lose all of your investment. It’s the same if you go via a stockbroker or independent financial advisor – but they already have a lot of in-depth market knowledge that you may not have, helping them to make informed decisions.
If you need more guidance for your investing decisions, try a different platform. Read our investment guides for more information!
However, for personal investors who want a direct handle on their financial decisions, the platform of a fund supermarket can be a real help. Not only is it often cheaper to use than going direct, it also helps you manage your ‘portfolio’ (your mix of investments) in one place.
If you don’t want to do all of this online, many fund supermarkets have a telephone service you can use, too.
Fund supermarkets can also offer information on the funds, including which companies they’re invested in, historical and recent performance figures and an analysis of their investment styles. This is really important when you’re deciding which companies to invest in. Historical performance isn’t an indicator of future success, but it can give you a fair idea of what to expect.
Some fund supermarkets will only offer access to Unit Trusts and Open-Ended Investment Companies (OEICs) but others also offer access to stock-exchange listed investments like shares, Investment Trusts and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
With a fund supermarket you can also put your investments into an ISA or a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SiPP) to save on tax. Remember: you can earn £2,000 in dividends before you have to pay any tax, even on funds in your ISA. After that £2,000 allowance is used up, you’ll need to pay tax based on your band (7.5% for basic rate, 32.5% for higher rate, and 38.1% for additional rate). You’re not taxed at source – you’ll need to complete a Self Assessment form each year.
Fund supermarkets offer a cheaper way to purchase your investments compared to buying directly. They often waive the initial set-up fee completely, which could cost you up to 5% of your investment amount through other routes.
Instead, they’ll charge you two other types of fees: annual service charges and deal fees.
The annual fee covers the running costs of the fund supermarket platform and is typically less than 1% of your investments, but is sometimes a flat fee. The deal fee is a flat charge each time you buy or sell shares.
Someone who deals regularly would benefit from ‘frequent trader’ rates, which slashes the cost of each trade. It’s worth shopping around depending on whether you’re going to be a regular or lump-sum investor, and whether you’re going for long-term open-ended holding of shares and funds or want to trade frequently.
Your fund supermarket may also charge an exit fee to transfer your shares and stocks to another platform.
The real area you’re saving money is by making the decisions to trade yourself. You’re not relying on a fund manager to actively manage your investments or paying commission to a stockbroker.
The best fund supermarket for you depends on your initial investment amount, how frequently you want to trade, and what you want to invest in. Some fund supermarkets, for example, may not let you purchase ETF or index trackers. So, before you set up an account, make sure you know what investment products you want to purchase and make sure your fund supermarket offers them.
Popular fund supermarkets that we suggest you take a look at include:
To start trading, set up an online account with your chosen fund supermarket. You’ll need to provide some personal details, such as proof of identity, in the registration process to prevent money laundering and fraud.
When you’ve got your account, use the information provided by the platform to find the funds you want to invest in. You should be able to view current and historical performances, as well as other critical information, of any fund you may wish to invest in.
You then buy the shares you want much like you would an online shopping purchase! Use your debit card to transfer money into your fund supermarket account and then complete the transaction you want.
There you go – you’re an investor!
*This is not financial or investment advice. Remember to do your own research and speak to a professional advisor before parting with any money.
If you’re still getting to grips with the world of investing, then we recommend the following reads: