Billions paid into investment funds

Low interest rates prompted consumers to pay a near-record, multi-billion figure into investment funds last year, figures have shown.

The year saw £23.9 billion invested in UK-based unit trusts and OEICs (open-ended investment companies) as people searched for other places to stash their cash.

The total, which did not include investments which were being cashed in or moved elsewhere, was just behind 2009's record £25.9 billion, the Investment Management Association said.

Sales of tax-free ISAs also enjoyed a strong year, with net investments of £3.9 billion, the highest level since 2001.

Richard Saunders, chief executive at the Investment Management Association, said: "Consumers continued to increase their investments at record rates in 2010, which was the second highest year on record for fund sales. And ISA sales were the strongest in nearly a decade."

There was a marked shift in people's preference for equities during the year, with net sales of stocks and shares funds reaching £7.5 billion, a level last seen in 2000, shortly after the FTSE 100 reached its highest ever level.

But while investors showed a strong bias towards UK and European equities a decade ago, their investments are now more diversified, with 20% of all money going into global funds.

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