Pension field is stretched out

FIVE years after personal pension funds were introduced, the best performers are nearly 80 per cent ahead of the funds at the bottom of the league, according to Buck Consultants, the actuaries.

The top fund, Prosperity Life's managed fund, increased by an annual average of 16.8 per cent. The median fund, from Laurentian Life, increased by 10.4 per cent a year, and the back-marker, Aetna Bull, grew by an annual average of only 4.1 per cent.

The very worst performer, Windsor Life, was not even included in the Buck survey, having withdrawn before the results were published. In another form, however, Windsor Life is still with us, having taken over the Aetna funds in May. A spokesman for Aetna said its poorly performing Owl and Bear funds were set up as risk-related funds in 1985 and given tighter briefs than competitors have been given since.

The fund therefore missed out on investments in Japan, the Far East and North America that boosted many others in the last 12 months.

NM Global attributes its poor results to a low exposure to foreign equities after the UK came out of the exchange rate mechanism last year. And 10 per cent of its investments have been in property over a time when better-performing funds cut back to 3 per cent or less. National Mutual's asset allocation was the reverse of NM Global's. When the UK moved out of the ERM, National Mutual changed from being underweight in equities to being underweight in bonds. Last year it had no property investments but since then has built up a 3 per cent weighting in the sector.

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