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Merian’s small company star takes leave of absence

20 June 2019

Nick Williamson, highly-rated manager of Merian UK Smaller Companies Focus fund and co-manager of Merian Chrysalis investment trust takes three-month leave of absence.

Nick Williamson, the highly-rated manager of the £370 million Merian UK Smaller Companies Focus fund and co-manager of the Merian Chrysalis (MERI) investment trust is taking a three-month leave of absence from the company.

The board of the £207 million trust, which launched late last year and which targets unquoted high-growth businesses, said Citywire AAA-rated Williamson would take ‘a short period of leave for family reasons’ and was expected to return in September.

Richard Watts, the investment company's Citywire A-rated small and mid-cap co-manager, will continue to run the portfolio in his absence.

In a positive day for markets following the Federal Reserve's announcement that US interest rates could be cut, Merian Chrysallis shares rose 2p or 1.7% to 119p, giving them a 19% gain since its flotation in November.

Despite falling short of its initial £200 million target during its initial fund raising during the intense market volatility of late last year, the trust has consistently traded at a premium and a £100 million share issue in April doubled assets under management. The shares still trade at 7% over net asset value.

In a statement at the time, Williamson said:  ‘The growing opportunity for crossover investing in the UK and across Europe is compelling. Investors have recognised this and the new funds that they have provided will allow us to continue to pursue our exciting pipeline of opportunities.’

Among the trust’s initial investments are fintech Growth Street, which aims to take the place of bank lending which collapsed in the small and medium-sized (SME) business space following the financial crisis.

The pair also ploughed nearly £19 million into a $300 million (£231 million) funding round of Graphcore, which has developed an intelligence processing unit which aims to improve the efficiency and performance of AI applications by between 10 to 100-fold over existing hardware offerings.

The managers also invested £11 million in TransferWise, which facilitates low-cost money transfers abroad and £8 million in boutique hotel website Secret Escapes. Another £9.5 million was invested in The Hut Group, an e-commerce business behind brands such as beauty marketplace lookfantastic.com.

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