You can help good causes by choosing the right investment

  • @simonnread

We get sent a lot of information about new investment opportunities in The Independent's office. Most of them go straight in the bin, as I'm not inclined to pass on news about "opportunities" that I think are too risky for most readers.

My view is that our responsibility is to inform you of as much of the investment universe as space allows, while not giving publicity to anything we have doubts about.

So we have written about many of the fad funds mentioned in Rob Griffin's feature (right) in the interest of keeping readers informed.

But – I hope – we have kept things balanced and pointed out the risks as strongly as the attractions of any investment schemes which we've included within the pages of Your Money.

We have to trust that you'll use common sense when handing your money over to any financial firm. No matter how interesting an opportunity looks – or how much hype it comes with – if you're going to take a risk with your cash, then you must be fully aware of what that risk is.

Against that background, a new launch caught my eye this week that I felt was interesting enough to pass on. It's an investment trust that intends to donate 1 per cent of its net asset value each year to charity.

Specifically, the trust will hand over 0.5 per cent to the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), with the other half going to a number of other good causes.

In addition, the Battle Against Cancer Investment Trust (Bacit) will use 1 per cent of its net asset value to invest in the work of the ICR.

It has been set up by some big City names, including Tom Henderson, formerly of Cazenove, Jeremy Tigue, manager of the Foreign & Colonial investment trust, and Jon Moulton, the founder of Alchemy Partners.

In launching the fund, Mr Henderson said: "For many years I have wanted to find a way to combine my background in fund management with supporting the work of the ICR."

It looks a compelling deal. But, hang on, why does it seem so appealing? Because of the investment returns it offers?

Let's have a look at what's promised through Bacit. The fund's launch announcement states: "Bacit will target an annualised return per share in the range of 10 to 15 per cent per annum."

That sounds great! Where do I sign! But just a minute, how are they going to achieve such great returns in the current climate?

Back to the announcement: "The group intends to achieve the investment objective through long-only funds … hedge funds … private equity funds … and real estate funds."

Sounds promising. But which funds? The document fails to clarify.

Further, the closing date to apply – with a minimum investment of £1,000 – is 19 October.

So you'll have to make up your mind quickly without knowing where your cash will be invested. In other words, you won't know what kind of risks the management team will take with your cash chasing returns of 15 per cent.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't consider adding this fund to your portfolio. With the thought of all that money going towards fighting the battle against cancer, it could help to improve your soul as well as your bank balance.

However, investment decisions should not be based on emotions. That's like backing a long-shot horse because it has the same name as your old nursery school or your favourite colour. That's a recipe to lose money.

If you want to avoid putting money into activities you deplore, then you should choose an ethical fund. You'll be able to find one that refuses to back the arms industry or tobacco firms, for instance.

But if you want to find an investment that will give you the best available return, then you need to be happy with the investment decisions that a fund manager will make. For the moment, Bacit has no track record, and has not offered enough information about its specific intentions for you to be able to make an informed decision.

Let's face it, you could put your money into a fund which gives a greater return and then make a contribution to the charity of your choice. That way more of your money could go to good causes, especially taking into account the tax relief you can earn on contributions.

I wish every success to Bacit and its aims, but the fund's launch serves as a reminder of the importance of careful consideration of investments, not simply signing up to the latest thing.