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Collective investments are also known as unit trusts, investment trusts and OEICs. In all cases an individual is able to invest in a basket of shares of different companies, that way spreading his or her equity investment risk.
With a collective investment your money is pooled, along with that of other investors, to create a large capital sum. Professional fund managers then use this capital sum to build up a large actively managed portfolio of investments. This approach enables you, indirectly, to hold a wide range of stocks and shares in a way which would not be practical for an individual investor, whilst minimising the effects on your capital of fluctuations in individual share values.
Collectives can also invest in fixed interest instruments. These include UK government stock, also known as gilt edged stock or "gilts" for short. Corporate bonds are also fixed interest instruments and both represent direct borrowing on the part of the issuer of the bonds. They are referred to as "fixed interest" because their cost of borrowing is fixed, while the price of the bonds themselves may float up or down depending on supply and demand.
Traditionally, fixed interest investments have been regarded as a safe option. However it is important to remember that not only do they fluctuate in price, but also that the investor risks that the issuer may not be able to pay the interest (coupon) on the bonds, or the principal when the bonds mature.
With a collective investment you have access to expert full time investment management, reducing the risk and complexities of direct investment into equities. Your money becomes part of a much larger investment portfolio with much larger individual investments, as well as more individual holdings.