Types of Investment Trusts – Splits

The previous part of this article summarised what actually constitutes an investment trust, including how they are run, and provided an introduction into one particular type of investment trust, the REIT. In this second part, Split Capital Investment Trusts are introduced with a quick summary of how they may be used by investors.

Split Capital Investment Trusts

Also known as Splits, this variation of an investment trust strays from the more simple template in that it can offer a number of different share types within the one trust, each with a certain profile of risk vs potential yield.

Splits tend to be run across a fixed term and therefore have a stated closing date, known as a wind-up date. At this date the assets accumulated through the fund are distributed to the investors in a predefined order depending on what class of share they have purchased, with the low risk shares paying out first, but with limited gains, and the high risk shares paying out last, but with the highest potential gains if the fund were to perform well enough.

The share classes that pay out first usually have protection on the original capital investment which is then countered by the fact that they dont receive any income and during the life of the fund and the fact that the final redemption prices is predefined (so that the potential yield, if the fund were to grow sufficiently, has a ceiling). The series of share classes to pay out next will have diminishing protection on the original capital investment, but greater shares of the income payments and of the remaining asset growth if the investments were to perform very well. Therefore, with the last share class to pay out there is a high risk that there will be very low returns after the higher priority shares have been paid if the investment trust performs below expectations, but there is no limit on the potential gains if it does indeed perform well.

This choice allows investors with differing aims to invest into the trust in accordance with their own investment strategy. For example, pension fund managers running annuity funds may find that they can take up shares with higher risk (little capital protection as they will be redeemed after the lower risk share classes) but that have the potential to pay out more income if the underlying investments perform well. Contrastingly, private small scale investors who are after long term investment returns may be better suited to zero dividend preference shares (the first to pay out) which have the security of a fixed return/capital protection but miss out on the income payments along the way.

Even within these investment trust groups there will be a significant variety in the risk and potential reward profiles from one trust to the next depending on the stated strategy of the fund manager and the company sectors (geographical, industrial etc) in which they specialise. There should therefore be investment companies offering the right shares to meet any investors needs. If the price is right of course!