Interactive Investor

Ethical and income funds top the charts over three and six months

We share the latest monthly update on how the five interactive investor model portfolios are faring.

17th August 2021 15:14

Kyle Caldwell from interactive investor

We share the latest monthly update on how the five interactive investor model portfolios are faring. 

Over the past couple of months, short-term performance has picked up for ethical funds and, among our five model portfolios, it is ii Ethical Growth that has risen to the top of the table over one and three months.

The value rally, which since November has benefited funds and trusts that focus on shares that are more economically sensitive, has cooled over both those time periods. Instead, as we noted in last month’s review, investors are once again embracing growth shares, including technology shares.

Given that ethical funds tend to be underweight (hold less than the index), or completely avoid certain cyclical sectors on ethical grounds, such as big oil and mining companies, when value shares outperform, it is a headwind. When the opposite plays out, it is a tailwind.

However, investors have not been put off and figures for fund sales in July show that £9 in every £10 went into an environmental or ethical fund.

Yet, over six months, it is our two income portfolios (ii Active Income and ii Low-Cost Income) that are leading the pack. The funds and trusts in our two models are benefiting from companies returning to the dividend register.

In the UK, dividend payments for the second quarter of the year grew by 51.2% year-on-year, which beat expectations, according to the latest Link Dividend Monitor report.

Driving the growth of payments were those companies restarting their dividends. In the second quarter of 2021, around nine-tenths of the increase came from companies that had cancelled dividends in the same three-month period in 2020.

Below, we run through the fund winners and losers in July for all five of our models, including detailing how each portfolio performed. All performance figures are total return, the share price total return in respect of investment trusts.

No changes have been made (including no rebalancing) to the five models this month. 

Performance of our five models over 12-month time periods 

Discrete returns for the periods*:     
 01/08/2020 - 31/07/202101/08/2019 - 31/07/202001/08/2018 - 31/07/2019  
Growth Portfolios     
ii Active Growth28.45.5N/A  
ii Ethical Growth30N/AN/A  
ii Low-Cost Growth25.4-6.1N/A  
Growth benchmark23.5-5.37.4  
Income portfolios     
ii Active Income24.1-14.6N/A  
ii Low-Cost Income20.3-15.1N/A  
Income benchmark21.7-15.16.1  
Morningstar GBP Adventurous Allocation average22.5-4.74.9  

Notes *as at 31 July 2021. Portfolio launch date (for monitoring purposes) was 1 January 2019, except Ethical Growth portfolio, launched 1 October 2019. Data source: Morningstar Direct. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Growth performance and top performers in July

As mentioned above, ii Ethical Growth took the top spot in July, as well as over the past three months. It has also risen to first place over the past year, returning 30% versus 28.4% and 25.4% for ii Active Growth and ii Low-Cost Growth.

Most of the 10 constituents in ii Ethical Growth produced positive returns in July. The three best-performing funds were Montanaro Better World, Baillie Gifford Positive Change and Royal London Sustainable Leaders, with returns of 5.1%, 3.2% and 2.9%.

Last month, interactive investor interviewed Mike Fox, who manages Royal London Sustainable Leaders. Fox explained the two tests he uses to find sustainable companies that have an edge over their competitors.

He said: “When we judge a company, we look at, first of all, its products and services. Some good examples of that are healthcare and technology versus oil and gas. Healthcare and technology, we would say, have products and services that do help environmental and social issues. We would argue oil and gas, for example, is problematic. So we would tend to choose the more sustainable sectors to invest in.

“Then, as another test, we would also look at their ESG standards – how they are managing their environmental, social and corporate governance issues.” 

There were just two funds in the red in July for ii Ethical Growth: Stewart Investors Global Emerging Market Sustainability and FP Foresight Global Real Infrastructure, which posted losses of 2.5% and 0.5%.

Our other two growth portfolios, ii Active Growth and ii Low-Cost Growth, returned 0.5% and 0% in July.

In ii Low-Cost Growth, most of the index funds and ETFs in the portfolio produced positive returns in July, but the portfolio return was flat due to losses from Fidelity Index Emerging Markets and Vanguard Global Small-Cap Index, down 7.1% and 1.3%. The best performer was the WisdomTree Enhanced Commodity ETF, which gained 3%.

In ii Active Growth, the trio that led the way were CFP SDL UK BuffettologyFundsmith Equity and Liontrust Special Situations, with gains of 4.8%, 3% and 2.9%. All three invest in growth shares.

Fundsmith’s Terry Smith recently gave his take on how the fund has performed during the value rally. He pointed out that the fund outperformed the MSCI World Index, which he said his investors may be rather surprised about if they had “been reading what investment commentators have been saying during this period”.

In his letter to investors, Smith said that “no amount of recovery or low valuation will turn a poor business into a good one and quality is the main determinant of long-term performance”.

Three of the 10 funds in ii Active Growth posted losses in July. Scottish Mortgage (LSE: SMT) gave up 1.1%, while JP Morgan Emerging Markets (LSE:JMG) declined by 4.9%. A more notable fall, of 10.1%, was Standard Life Private Equity (LSE:SLPE). The recent publication of the trust’s half-yearly results, to the end of March, showed its share price total return was 38.8% and its net asset value (NAV) total return was 14.9%. Over this period, the FTSE All-Share Index returned 18.5%. The trust backs “resilient sectors”, such as technology, healthcare and consumer staples, which it says paid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Performance of our three growth portfolios 

% total return (with income reinvested) as of 31 July 2021, after:     
 1 month3 mths6 mths1 yearSince inception*
Growth portfolios     
ii Active Growth0.52.6928.461.1
ii Ethical Growth1.83.76.33038**
ii Low-Cost Growth029.525.438
Growth benchmark-0.22.510.623.537
Growth benchmark since 1 October 2019 (date ii Ethical Growth was launched)    17.9**
Morningstar GBP Adventurous Allocation average0.11.98.622.535.7

Notes *as at 31 July 2021. Portfolio launch date (for monitoring purposes) was 1 January 2019, except **Ethical Growth portfolio, launched 1 October 2019. Data source: Morningstar Direct. past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Income performance and top performers in July

ii Low-Cost Income had the upper hand over ii Active Income in July, returning 0.5% against -0.5%. It is also ahead over three months, but not over six months, one year, or since inception (1 January 2019).

The two standout contributors to performance over the month were the SPDR® S&P UK Dividend Aristocrats ETF and the WisdomTree Global Equity Dividend Growth ETF, with returns of 3.6% and 1.9%.

The Aristocrats ETF tracks the S&P UK High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index, made up of the 40 highest dividend-paying UK companies, with a track record of maintaining or growing dividends for at least seven consecutive years. At the end of July, its top three holdings were Morrisons (LSE:MRW), Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) and Jupiter Fund Management (LSE:JUP).

In ii Active Income, three of the 10 constituents posted losses in July, which weighed down the overall portfolio to post a small loss. Standard Life Private Equity Trust declined by 10.1%, while Utilico Emerging Markets (LSE:UEM) and Murray International (LSE:MYI) fell by 5.3% and 4.1%.

Bruce Stout, manager of Murray International, has sounded a note of caution about the dividend recovery.

While acknowledging that markets have been rising on the back of improving global economic growth and company profitability, Stout notes that “numerous companies remained very cautious when it came to returning improving cash flows to shareholders”.

He added: “Opting to reset dividends below pre-pandemic levels or to keep dividends unchanged until greater transparency emerges was commonplace against a backdrop of viral mutations and constantly changing directives from governments.

“The path to income recovery may take much longer for certain economic sectors and businesses this time around.”

The three top performers in ii Active Income in July were BMO Commercial Property Trust (LSE:BCPT), Bankers (LSE:BNKR) and Man GLG Income, with returns of 3.7%, 3.5% and 2%.

Performance of our two income portfolios

% total return (with income reinvested) as of 31 July 2021, after:     
 1 month3 mths6 mths1 yearSince inception*
Income portfolios     
ii Active Income-0.51.910.724.124
ii Low-Cost Income0.52.410.520.316.4
Income benchmark-0.90.71021.617.4
Morningstar GBP Adventurous Allocation average0.11.98.622.535.7

Data source: Morningstar Direct. *Portfolio launch date (for monitoring purposes) was 1 January 2019. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

These articles are provided for information purposes only.  Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties.  The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

Full performance can be found on the company or index summary page on the interactive investor website. Simply click on the company's or index name highlighted in the article.

Our Model Portfolios have been compiled by investment experts to help investors who do not have the time or the confidence to make their own investment choices. There are a variety of financial goals they are designed to help people meet.

However, you should note that the selection of our Model Portfolios is not a ‘personal recommendation’. This means we have not assessed your investment knowledge, your financial situation (including your ability to bear losses), your investment objectives, your risk tolerance, or your sustainability preferences.

You should ensure that any investment decisions you make are suitable for your personal circumstances, and if you are unsure about the suitability of a particular investment or think you need a personal recommendation, you should speak to a suitably qualified financial adviser.

The past performance of an investment is not a reliable indicator of future results, and ii does not guarantee or predict the future performance of the Model Portfolios or the constituent investments.

Risk Warning(s)

The value of your investments may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest.

Investing in emerging markets involves different risks from developed markets, in many cases the risks are greater.

The value of international investments is affected by currency fluctuations which might reduce their value in sterling.


Annual performance can be found on the factsheet of each fund, trust or ETF. Simply click on the asset’s name and then the performance tab.

Any changes to the Model Portfolio constituents and the rationale behind those decisions will be communicated through the Quarterly Investment Outlook.

To see a list of previous updates to Model Portfolio constituent investments, please go to the relevant Model Portfolio’s ‘Timeline’.

ii adheres to a strict code of conduct. Members of ii staff may have holdings in one or more Model Portfolios (or the constituent investments), which could create a conflict of interest. Any member of staff involved in the development of research about any financial instrument in which they have an interest are required to disclose such interest to ii. We will at all times consider whether such interest impairs the objectivity of the recommendation to add/remove a constituent investment to/from a Model Portfolio.

In addition, staff involved in compiling the Model Portfolios are subject to a personal account dealing restriction. This prevents them from placing a transaction in the specified instrument(s) for five working days before and after an investment is included or amended and made public within a Model Portfolio. This is to avoid personal interests conflicting with the interests of investors in the Model Portfolios and their constituent investments.