Personal Finance: PEP firms lack fizz

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The Independent Online
THE BOOM in Personal Equity Plans may have produced some of the highest sales figures on record, but it has left one investor at least appalled at the poor service offered by investment houses.

Simon Black, of Brighton, sent off for PEP details from 60 different plan managers. One sent back details of the wrong PEP and gave an incomplete address, so that by the time he received the right details it was too late to invest for this tax year. Mr Black also complained about lack of knowledge by staff running PEP help desks. He said staff were confused about the difference between direct holdings in a PEP and equities held in a unit trust and a PEP.

He said he was interested in investing in the Far East or America and claimed that many company representatives did not understand that it was possible to invest a certain amount in these regions through a Pep.

Another company, Provident Mutual, sent him details of its Diamond PEP. Its literature stated: 'Investors are permitted to invest up to 50 per cent of the maximum PEP subscription each tax year into authorised unit trusts.'

The literature goes on to say: 'For example, in tax year 1993-94 a maximum of pounds 6,000 may be invested. Of this, a maximum of 50 per cent (ie, pounds 3,000) may be invested in authorised unit trusts.'

Mr Black points out, rightly, that the 50 per cent limit on unit trust investment in PEPs was abolished two years ago. When Provident Mutual was contacted by the Independent on Sunday, its spokesperson insisted there could be no room for misinterpretation in the literature.

However, when we contacted the company's regulatory body, Imro, it said that it would be taking the matter up with Provident Mutual.

The dash by fund managers for cash pouring out of building societies seems to be leaving service to the investor low on their list of priorities.

IN THE late 1980s, everybody talked about how much money they were making through home ownership.

Many people were able to make more money than they ever could from working, merely by moving home.

The profits earned this way are unlikely ever to be earned again. A survey by Morgan Grenfell, published last week, shows that house price inflation is likely to be only 3 per cent this year and 4 per cent next year.

This is a substantial cut on the 5 per cent increase in house prices predicted at the beginning of the year by leading lenders.

The new predicted rise barely outstrips the expected rate of inflation. The small rise is linked to the rate of income growth predicted over the next two years.

Recent increases in tax mean that real income growth over the next couple of years is close to zero, and the cut in mortgage interest tax relief to 20 per cent will further depress house price recovery.

Anyone hoping to repeat the bonanza enjoyed by many homeowners in the mid to late 1980s should seek a home for their investments elsewhere.

LIFE assurance is sold, not bought, but not to women it seems. A recent survey from NOP shows that about half of mothers with children under 14 have no life cover.

Only a third of men in the same family circumstances are in the same position. The survey, carried out for Sun Life on 30,000 adults across the country, found that most fathers believe that the death of their spouse will cost them an extra pounds 2,500 a year. But the real cost of replacing a mother could be more than 10 times that figure.

The survey is a sad testament to the selling techniques of the leading life assurers.

It also reflects an industry where women make up a small proportion of the workforce. Many women bring up children on their own and need life assurance. It is about time the life industry woke up to this fact.

Vivien Goldsmith is on holiday

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