The funds and trusts that can make you an Isa millionaire

Just a fraction of funds make investors Isa millionaires – but a weighting towards investment trusts might help boost your chances, according to research by AJ Bell.

Of the 472 funds and trusts with a performance record stretching back to 1999 when Isas launched, just 50 would have made you a millionaire from investing your full allowance each year.

Investment trusts account for 35 of the 50, with the remainder open-ended funds, and all are actively managed.

Secrets of an Isa millionaire: Pick investment trusts over trackers to build your savings pot

Private equity trusts top the list, with HgCapital Trust and 3i delivering total Isa values of £1.8million and £1.5million respectively.

Despite a poor performance in recent months, Scottish Mortgage remains in the top 10 funds with a value of £1.5million if you invested your full allowance every year.

By comparison, saving a full Isa allowance every year since 1999 into an average global stock fund would have netted £684,891.

‘Trusts as a whole tend to be more equity focused than funds, including in more niche areas like private equity,’ says Laith Khalaf, AJ Bell’s head of investment analysis.

‘They can also use gearing, borrowing money to invest, which over a 24 year period can provide a substantial tailwind to returns. The closed-end nature of investment trusts also means they can trade at a discount or premium to the value of their underlying assets.

‘This amplifies volatility, but can also lead to higher returns if the change in discount or premium is favourable between purchase and sale.’

> Typical stocks and shares Isa fund fell over the past 12 months – while cash Isa savers saw returns edge up 

Best funds often invested in riskier areas 

The best performing funds and trusts over the period are invested in riskier, often niche, areas of the market, as well as smaller companies funds.

‘It’s notable that many of these funds and trusts have fallen in value in the last year – some of them quite considerably,’ Khalaf says. 

‘The fact they have still banked enough good performance to produce Isa millionaires shows your final investment ranking is a reflection of returns from start to finish, not just in the final furlong.’

The lack of passive trackers in the top funds is notable, but is likely because they were not as widespread in 1999 so there are very few that have a long enough track record to make it into contention.

The HSBC American Fund index is knocking on the door of the millionaire fund list though, delivering £991,986 since 1999.

Sector 2023 Isa value  Value 2023 vs 2022 
HgCapital Trust Private Equity  £1,864,097  -12.95% 
3i  Private Equity  £1,580,468  25.15% 
Pacific Horizon  Asia Pacific   £1,536,908  -10.24% 
Scottish Mortgage  Global  £1,519,568  -27.47% 
Allianz Technology Trust  Technology & Media  £1,476,636  -14.94% 
abrdn Asia Focus  Asia Pacific Smaller Companies  £1,457,424  0.39% 
Scottish Oriental Smaller Companies  Asia Pacific Smaller Companies  £1,389,359  15.10% 
Polar Capital Technology   Technology & Media  £1,363,386  -12.16% 
Blackrock World Mining Trust  Commodities & Natural Resources  £1,306,910  1.82% 
Blackrock Throgmorton Trust  UK Smaller Companies  £1,213,157  -14.10% 

Secrets to being an Isa millionaire

Other than opting for investment trusts, there are some other secrets to help you boost your savings pot.

Khalaf says the first is to fund your Isa with as much as you can, and try to max out the full £20,000 allowance each year if possible.

The second is to take some risk by investing in the stock market, because if you opt for safer assets producing lower returns it will take longer to hit the £1million mark.

The lower your portfolio volatility is, the lower growth you can expect over the long term.

An investment in the average global equity fund would have built up a pot of £684,891, while the average UK fund trails at £539,840, although this is still an almost doubling of the money invested in the Isa. 

The UK gilts sector hasn’t made huge headway above £283,440, which is the maximum total Isa contribution between 1999 and 2023.

Finally, time in the market beats timing the market, so the saying goes. Starting as early as possible will help you edge closer to becoming an Isa millionaire.

  Sector 2023 ISA value  Value 2023 vs 2022 
Janus Henderson Glb Tech Leaders Tech and Tech Innovation £1,213,033  -7.07% 
CT American Smaller Companies  North American Smaller Companies  £1,208,671  6.61% 
Janus Henderson European Smaller Cos  European Smaller Companies  £1,176,653  8.00% 
Baillie Gifford Pacific  Asia Pacific Excluding Japan  £1,172,940  -7.01% 
abrdn Indian Equity  India/Indian Subcontinent  £1,165,278  -6.95% 
Baillie Gifford American  North America  £1,128,495  -23.99% 
AXA Framlington American Growth  North America  £1,124,372  -4.19% 
Liontrust UK Smaller Companies  UK Smaller Companies  £1,121,107  -9.77% 
CT European Smaller Companies  European Smaller Companies  £1,105,161  -0.26% 
Schroder US Smaller Companies  North American Smaller Companies  £1,104,530  9.66% 

‘Isa millionaires have generally had to save hard, take risk, and get a bit lucky to build up such a big pot of money,’ says Khalaf.

‘While it’s always interesting to consider the investing habits of ISA millionaires, we shouldn’t get too fixated on the £1million mark.

‘Isa savings can of course be extremely valuable at more modest levels. For instance, if you’re able to build up a £200,000 Isa pot, that could provide you with a tax-free income of £8,000 a year in retirement without even drawing down on your capital (assuming a 4 per cent yield). 

‘When added to your private pension and the state pension, that could be a welcome boost to your retirement income that could ensure you don’t spend your golden years counting the pennies.

‘It could also help you ride out any unexpected financial shocks, like the current spike in energy prices. For savers with more immediate financial goals, a Lifetime Isa pot of £30,000 will go a long way to securing a first home.’

Compare the best DIY investing platforms and stocks & shares Isa

Investing online is simple, cheap and can be done from your computer, tablet or phone at a time and place that suits you.

When it comes to choosing a DIY investing platform, stocks & shares Isa or a general investing account, the range of options might seem overwhelming. 

Every provider has a slightly different offering, charging more or less for trading or holding shares and giving access to a different range of stocks, funds and investment trusts. 

When weighing up the right one for you, it’s important to to look at the service that it offers, along with administration charges and dealing fees, plus any other extra costs.

To help you compare investment accounts, we’ve crunched the facts and pulled together a comprehensive guide to choosing the best and cheapest investing account for you. 

We highlight the main players in the table below but would advise doing your own research and considering the points in our full guide linked here.

>> This is Money’s full guide to the best investing platforms and Isas 

Platforms featured below are independently selected by This is Money’s specialist journalists. If you open an account using links which have an asterisk, This is Money will earn an affiliate commission. We do not allow this to affect our editorial independence. 

Admin charge Charges notes Fund dealing Standard share, trust, ETF dealing Regular investing Dividend reinvestment
AJ Bell*  0.25%  Max £3.50 per month for shares, trusts, ETFs.  £1.50 £9.95 £1.50 £1.50 per deal  More details
Bestinvest* 0.40% (0.2% for ready made portfolios) Account fee cut to 0.2% for ready made investments Free £4.95 Free for funds  Free for income funds More details
Charles Stanley Direct 0.35%  No platform fee on shares if a trade in that month and annual max of £240 Free £11.50 n/a n/a More details
Fidelity* 0.35% on funds £45 fee up to £7,500. Max £45 per year for shares,  trusts,  ETFs Free £10 Free funds £1.50 shares, trusts ETFs £1.50 More details
Hargreaves Lansdown* 0.45% Capped at £45 for shares, trusts, ETFs Free £11.95 £1.50 1% (£1 min, £10 max) More details
Interactive Investor*  £9.99 per month, or £4.99 under £30k holdings,  £12.99 for Sipp £5.99 per month back in free trading credit (does not apply to £4.99 plan) £5.99 £5.99 Free £0.99 More details
iWeb £100 one-off £5 £5 n/a 2%, max £5 More details
Etoro*  Free but no Isa or Sipp  Investment account offers stocks and ETFs. Beware high risk CFDs in trading account Not available  Free  n/a  n/a  More details 
Freetrade* Free for Basic account,  £4.99 per month for Standard with Isa  Freetrade Plus with more investments and Sipp is £9.99/month inc. Isa fee No funds  Free  n/a  n/a  More details 
Vanguard  0.15%   Only Vanguard funds Free  Free only Vanguard ETFs  Free  n/a  More details 
(Source: Jan 2023. Admin % charge may be levied monthly or quarterly