Unit Trusts and Open Ended Investment Companies Collective Investments
Unit trusts and Open Ended Investment Companies (OEICs) are types of collective investments. In a collective investment, each individual investment is pooled with every other individual investment and then invested as a whole by the manager of the investment.
Different unit trust and OEIC funds invest in different asset classes – shares, bonds, cash and property. Some funds focus on just one asset class, while others invest in two or more. Irrespective of the asset class or classes they invest in, most fund managers will hold a wide spread of investments in their chosen asset class. That is one of the reasons why unit trusts and OEICs are popular with investors spreading investments across a range of businesses can help reduce a funds volatility and the risks for its investors.
Although unit trusts and OEICs are both open-ended investments, where the size of the fund varies according to market supply and demand, there are a number of key differences between the two types of funds.
Investors in unit trusts buy and sell a portion of the total fund in the form of units. The price unit holders initially pay for units (the bid price) is higher than the price they can sell the units for (the offer price): the difference between the two prices is known as the spread. In order for unit holders to make a return on their investment, the closing bid price must always be higher than the opening offer price. An OEIC fund on the other hand, does not trade in units but issues shares to its investors and is therefore an investment company – a less complex entity than a unit trust. Shares in an OEIC have a single price, which is determined by the value of the fund’s underlying investments. All shares in an OEIC are bought and sold at one single price, so theres no bid/offer spread to take into account.
The value of an investment in a unit trust or OEIC will vary according to the total value of the fund, which is determined by the performance of the investments the fund manager makes. Unit trusts and OEICs usually impose an up-front charge and annual management fees, some of which are declared as a percentage of the investment, while others are built into the price.