Defensive investment plans revealed – what you need to know
Defensive plans offer the potential for investment level returns even if the stock market fails to rise, or, in some scenarios, even falls slightly. With the closing levels of the FTSE 100 Index (‘the FTSE’) remaining above 6,000 points for almost the entire period since the start of 2013, defensive plans have risen in popularity as investors who are not confident the markets will rise further still have the opportunity to produce a competitive return on their capital. With this in mind, we take a closer look at a selection of our defensive plans to find out exactly what they have to offer and how the risk versus reward might be appealing in the current investment climate.
Apart from a handful of days during August and September of this year, the FTSE has closed above 6,000 points since the start of 2013. The lowest level was on 24th August this year when the Index closed at 5,898 points whilst the highest closing level over this period was 7104 towards the end of April this year. This level also represents the highest closing level of the FTSE on record, having broken through the 7,000 point barrier for the first time only in March earlier this year.
What is a defensive plan?
Therefore, by historical standards, the FTSE has spent close to three years at what are historically high levels. Partly as a result of this, there has been an increase in the number of plans that offer the potential for investment returns, even if the event that the market fails to rise. Collectively, these are commonly known as defensive plans.
Although each plan has its own characteristics, collectively they are growth investments which offer the potential for either a fixed return for every year invested (not compounded), or a multiple in any rise in the underlying investment but starting from a lower initial level (normally with a cap on the maximum growth return on offer). Each of these investments will be structured to offer a defined return for a defined level of risk, and as such you will know from the outset exactly what must happen in order to receive the stated returns on offer.
A middle ground
Defensive investments therefore try and offer the best of both worlds by offering the potential for investment level returns, even if the underlying investment only rises by a small amount, stays flat, or with some plans even goes down slightly. This means they are designed for investors who have a neutral or negative outlook of what could happen to the stock market in the coming years, and yet who would still like the opportunity to receive the potential for investment level returns. With the FTSE at historically high levels, these could arguably offer a compelling investment opportunity.
Please note that past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.
Potential for enhanced returns – the defensive ‘supertracker’
The FTSE Defensive Supertracker from Meteor is a current example of the defensive supertracker. The ‘supertracker’ part means your investment tracks any growth in the FTSE 100 Index during the term of the plan and then triples it, whilst the plan is ‘defensive’ since this growth is based on any rise above 80% of the FTSE’s starting value. Therefore, provided the FTSE has not fallen by more than 20%, you will receive triple any growth, subject to a maximum return of 60%, plus your capital back (that’s a 60% return even if the FTSE ends the same).
If the FTSE has fallen by more than 20%, no growth will be paid and your original investment will be returned in full unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%. This investment could therefore offer a compelling risk versus reward for those who are not convinced the FTSE will rise significantly in the medium term. However, if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%, your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.
Benefit from early maturity – the defensive kick out
If the FTSE had fallen by 5% in 3 years time and yet you still received 24% growth plus a return of your initial capital, would you consider this a good investment? Our range of defensive kick out plans offer up to 8.0% for each year invested (not compounded), even if the market falls up to 10%. The plans also offer the opportunity to mature early or kick out, as early as year 2 onwards, with different FTSE levels required depending on the individual plan.
The Investec FTSE 100 Defensive Kick-Out Plan will return 8.0% for each year plus a return of your capital provided the level of the FTSE at the end of each year from year 3 onwards, is above 90% of its starting value at the start of the plan. Meteors’ FTSE Defensive Kick Out Plan offers a marginally lower return of 7.75% in the event of kicking out but can mature at the end of year 2 onwards.
If with these plans the FTSE falls below the required level for each year, no growth will be achieved and you initial investment is returned in full unless the Index has fallen by either 40% or 50% (depending on the plan), measured at the end of the plan term. If it has, your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall and so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.
The potential for higher returns
Finally, the potential for higher returns is available if investors are prepared to take a higher level of risk, by having their return dependent on a small number of shares rather than an Index as a whole. Mariana’s 3 Stock Defensive Consolation Plan offers the potential for 14.5% annual returns, as well as the opportunity to mature early, or ‘kick out’, after 12 months, and then after every six months thereafter.
The plan compares the value of three technology shares (Apple, Microsoft and Intel) at the start of the plan with their values at the end of the first year, and then each six months thereafter. If the values of all three shares are at or above their starting values your investment will end, returning your original capital plus 7.25% for each six months invested (not compounded). If one or more shares are below, the plan continues.
If the plan reaches the end of the six year term without kicking out, it also offers the opportunity for a ‘consolation’ return of 32% provided none of the shares has fallen by more than 50%. If one or more shares have fallen by more than 50% then no return will be paid and your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall of the lowest performing share, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.
Fair Investment view
Commenting on the plans, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company said: “Whilst markets remain at relatively high levels there is understandably a place for defensive investment plans. For those investors who are not confident that the market will rise by a healthy margin in the coming years, knowing that you can achieve 7%+ for each year invested regardless of whether the market goes up, remains flat, or even falls slightly, could be an interesting option.”
He continued: “Combining a competitive growth return with a full return of your initial capital unless the underlying investment falls by 40% or 50% also offers investors a defined return for a defined level of risk. This gives investors the ability to consider the risk versus reward of the plan prior to investing which could be appealing in light of the current investment climate.”
No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.
Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring an ISA.
These are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment due to the performance of the FSTE 100 Index or three shares listed on the NASDAQ Index. There is also a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index or any shares listed on the NASDAQ is not a guide to their future performance. As share prices can move by a wide margin plans based on the performance of shares represent a higher risk investment than those based on indices as a whole.