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Fidelity International Will Charge Fees Tied to Performance

The firm is lowering fees on actively managed funds to attract investors who have been shifting money into low-cost passive options.

  • Alicia McElhaney

Fidelity International will begin offering variable fees in response to the growing debate about the value of actively managed funds.

The U.K.-based manager announced Tuesday that it would reduce its annual management fees and link them to performance. Under the new fee structure, Fidelity will charge clients more if it outperforms benchmarks, and less if it meets or underperforms its benchmark.

As many asset allocators move their money into passive funds to avoid high fees, active managers are searching for ways to curb high management costs, especially when their funds underperform benchmarks or passive funds.

“We want to demonstrate real commitment to our active management capability,” Brian Conroy, president of Fidelity International, said in the firm’s statement. “We will move away from a flat fee model and get paid according to how well we do for our clients.”

According to Conroy, part of the decision to change Fidelity’s fee structure came as a result of a study released earlier this year by the U.K.-based Financial Conduct Authority. The regulator found that fees are getting in the way of higher returns, particularly in active managed funds.

“Our evidence suggests that, on average, both actively managed and passively managed funds did not outperform their own benchmarks after fees,” the FCA said in a June report.

Fidelity’s new fee structure provides a cap on its highest and lowest fees, according to the firm’s statement. “Our fee structure will give back for underperformance of the benchmark, whereas others do not,” Conroy said.

To be sure, Fidelity International isn’t the only manager to begin offering sliding fee structures. Orbis Investment Management, a Bermuda-based firm managing about $30 billion of assets, gives money back to investors when it doesn’t meet its benchmarks.

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“Investors should welcome this general trend,” Dan Brocklebank, head of Orbis’ U.K. operations, said in an emailed statement. “It is not yet clear what the cap and floor levels are in their proposed fee structure, but Orbis believes that the best performance fee models involve fee refunds in the event that managers outperform and then underperform.”

Brocklebank added that the type of fee structure Orbis offers has been available to U.K. retail investors since 2014 and institutional investors since 2004.