Tag: structured products

Sophia Grene

Remember when exchange traded funds seemed like the good guys? When they were a cheap, efficient and transparent way for investors to track an index?

Those days are long gone.

Synthetic ETFs using derivatives, inverse and leveraged ETFs, unsecured exchange traded notes, all of these are muddying the waters for simple folks who just want good value investment. They do presumably all have their place, but they tend to undermine the proposition of ETFs as simple and transparent.

The latest is a reverse convertible ETF, shortly to be launched in the US by Rich Investment Solutions, run by Kevin Rich, who was previously responsible for Deutsche Bank’s initiative in bringing commodity ETFs to the US. Reverse convertibles are a structured product too complicated to explain here*. Press releases claim the ETF will simplify this structure, although I’m confused on how an index writing “down and in” options each quarter on the 12 most volatile stocks in the S&P 500 is really simple.

Again, there may be nothing wrong with this product at all, but if I were a physical ETF producer, I would be lying awake at night worrying about the brand. It’s hard to tell people you have a product they can understand when they can see something with the same name tracking reverse convertibles.

Sophia Grene

Are guaranteed products gaining FSA seal of approval?

Are guaranteed products gaining IFAs' seal of approval?

Although research for the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions says guaranteed products cost too much to be a rational investment for pension savers, independent financial advisers seem to have a different take on things.

More than 90 per cent of IFAs recommend structured products to their clients, according to a survey conducted by Structured Products magazine. Even allowing for the likely bias as IFAs try to be polite to the questioner, that’s a swingeing majority in favour of a product with a distinctly opaque cost structure.

A large part of the cost to investors of guaranteed equity products (the main form mentioned in the survey) is dividends, which the product provider gets to hold onto. The DWP’s research estimates this cost amounts to between 15 and 20 per cent of the amount invested – are IFAs telling their customers that, or are they even aware of it?

Pauline Skypala

Barclays Wealth thinks structured products are misunderstood and has put out a press release seeking to dispel “10 myths”.

Two of these myth-busters are particularly disingenuous. First is Barclays’ answer to the charge that structured products are expensive and have an opaque charging structure.

About the blog

FTfm is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

FTfm's specialist writing team offer their insights into the global fund management industry.

About the authors

Pauline Skypala has been editor of FTfm for four years having previously been deputy personal finance editor. She joined the FT in 1999 and has been writing on savings and investment issues throughout her career.

Steve Johnson, FTfm deputy editor, has been a journalist for 17 years, 10 of which have been with the FT.


Sophia Grene, reporter on FTfm, has been a financial journalist in print and online for 12 years.

Ruth Sullivan has worked as a financial/business journalist and foreign correspondent and for the past 10 years has been at the FT.

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