Can the City win over share-shy investors?

As sales of equity ISAs stagnate, Sam Dunn and Tim Sharp report on moves to restore confidence
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The Independent Online

Fund managers, advisers and brokers are hoping that a shake-up of the investment industry will encourage more savers to go into UK stock markets.

On Wednesday, an update will be unveiled of the Financial Services Authority's Retail Distribution review - the regulator's look at the way in which financial products are sold.

The level of commission paid to advisers and brokers by fund managers will be addressed, amid concern that it has a corrosive effect on consumer confidence.

Lack of trust in the UK financial services industry has played a part in damp- ening demand for tax-free stocks and shares individual savings accounts (ISAs). Recent figures show that the sums going into ISAs in April - when investors are supposed to be rushing to use up their allowances ahead of the end of the financial year - fell for the second year in a row. Some £853m of new money was channelled into equity ISAs in April; in the same month last year, it was £952m. Shares have been rising over the past 12 months or so, yet demand has remained dull.

Part of the problem, say advisers, is that many investors approach the market with a short-term view, asking whether it will grow by 10 or 20 per cent over the next 12 months. Independent financial advisers (IFAs) point out that an equity ISA - in which you can invest an annual maximum of £7,000 - needs to be left to grow for the long term.

One bright spot, though, is anecdotal evidence that regular investing is increasingly popular among people who can't afford to stump up thousands of pounds in one go.

Instead of lump sums, you can set aside a small amount every month, and according to figures from IFA Bestinvest, the results of the two approaches have proved broadly similar.

Take two people who have used up their full £7,000 ISA allowance every year since 1999 and invested the money in a fund tracking the FTSE All Share index. The person who put down £7,000 at the start of each tax year would have amassed £85,344 by 30 April this year; the one who opted for 12 monthly payments of £583.33 would have been just £5 worse off.

A little, often - a family hits the market

As a nursery nurse and mother of two, Joanne Jones knows that small steps now can reap benefits in the long term.

She puts £20 each month into a mini stocks and shares ISA.

At the front of her mind are her children, four- year-old Ryan and seven- year-old Chloe. "We want to put money aside for when they are older and are thinking about things like university. We will keep putting money in until they are 18."

For the past year, Mrs Jones, who lives in Bury, Lancashire with her husband, Darren, has been putting her money into the M&G Recovery fund, whose manager, Tom Dobell, invests in British companies.

"We heard about it from our financial adviser," she says. "We were told it was one of the companies that allowed you to pay money in every month."

Tim Sharp writes for 'New Model Adviser' magazine, published by Citywire

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