New plans pioneer use of options

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The Independent Online
TWO NEW investments, a Business Expansion Scheme and a pension plan, pioneer the use of futures and options instruments. The BES uses options to add speculative spice to a steady guarantee, while the pension fund uses them as a guarantee to damp down equity investment risk.

The BES, Bessa Oxford, is raising money for Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. A portion will be lodged with a building society pledged to return the entire investment after five years. A sum goes to the college, and the rest is invested in options on the FT-SE 100 index, which return 1.81p for each 1 per cent rise in the index. On the net cost to a higher-rate taxpayer, this is 301 per cent of the movement in the FT-SE, while for a 25 per cent taxpayer, the uplift is 241 per cent of the rise.

The pension plan, Mercury Asset Management's Guaranteed Fund, is invested in equities and aimed at small self-administered schemes of individuals with close to pounds 500,000 to invest. Members choose a guarantee date, which is their likely retirement date.

One per cent of the deposit is allocated to a guarantee fund. This will be guaranteed to be worth 90 per cent of the average price of the units in the main fund. Each year this can be increased if average performance has improved, but it can never fall.

When the retirement date is five years away, about 0.5 per cent of the 1.4 per cent annual management charge is channelled into the guarantee fund. This should make it large enough to buy futures and options to protect the equity investment.

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