A Q&A with Paul Niven, fund manager of the oldest investment company.
What do you think is so special about Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust?
The Trust’s most important attributes include its 150 year heritage, its scale and the sheer number of underlying investors. The Trust is very widely held with over 100,000 direct investors. Because it’s overwhelmingly held by private investors, it’s still fulfilling our founder Philip Rose’s 150-year old vision of an investment product for “the investor of moderate means”.
How has the Trust managed to stay relevant over the past 150 years?
The Trust started out with a focus on emerging market bonds with investments spanning Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, South America and North America at a time when Canada and the US were still considered to be “emerging markets”.
Over time, the portfolio has evolved and expanded to include, at certain points in its history, corporate bonds, equities and private equity. We have always cast our nets widely to look for new investment opportunities. We have gone from investing in the Amazon 150 years ago to investing in Amazon.com today.
The Trust has continued to evolve - how do you see its future development?
It is more global than at any point in recent history. About 95% of the portfolio is now invested overseas. We have the flexibility and resource to scan the entire global market across a whole range of growth opportunities spanning regions, market capitalisations and investment styles.
Inevitably we face challenges today that are very similar to those faced by our predecessors, from conflict to financial crises and, whilst we are not uniquely placed in history with regard to uncertainty, our longevity helps us put these challenges into perspective. Looking ahead, I believe that the best growth prospects lie in equities for the foreseeable future.
If you could meet the founder, Philip Rose, what would you want to ask him?
Looking at his original vision, it would be interesting to know how he would feel about Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust today, compared to its inception in 1868. I think he would agree that we are continuing to fulfil his vision, by providing a diversified investment vehicle with a global focus that meets the needs of the smaller investor. While our approach and underlying investments have changed over the years, the Trust has remained focused on shareholder returns and has evolved to meet investor needs over generations.
Did you know?
Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust was set up in 1868 by a young lawyer called Philip Rose, alongside barrister Samuel Laing and Samuel Laing’s business partner James Thompson Mackenzie, who was also Deputy Chairman of the East Bengal Railway.
With the backing of influential politician Lord Westbury, Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust was launched on Thursday, 19 March 1868. Today, it has total assets of £3.9 billion across a range of globally diversified holdings.
Foreign & Colonial has paid a dividend every year over its 150-year history, and has grown its pay-out ahead of inflation every year without fail since 1970.