fund investing


A useful piece of research has just popped into my inbox courtesy of the AIC. It looks at the long-term performance — the last 10, 20, and 30 years to 31 January 2022 — of the oldest investment trusts.


It’s in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and highlights the 35 investment companies that have 70 years or more of history. So it starts with F&C, launched back in 1868, and runs through to the young whippet that is Henderson Euro Focus that merely dates back to 1947.

I thought it was worth highlighting so I’ve rejigged the numbers to show annualised returns rather than total returns as I find these easier to comprehend and for comparison purposes.

I have also added a rank column to show the return position over 30 years more clearly; the figures assume all dividends are reinvested.


Launch Rank Company Sector Last 10 years Last 20 years Last 30 years
1909 1 Scottish Mortgage Global 24.6% 16.4% 14.7%
1905 2 TR Property Property Securities 16.1% 14.6% 14.0%
1930 3 Canadian General Investments North America 13.6% 12.3% 13.7%
1906 4 BlackRock Smaller UK Smaller Companies 16.9% 14.6% 12.6%
1947 5 Henderson European Focus Europe 14.1% 10.3% 12.3%
1889 6 AVI Global Global 11.2% 10.8% 12.2%
1881 7 JPMorgan American North America 16.6% 9.5% 11.6%
1884 8 Mercantile UK All Companies 13.2% 11.0% 11.5%
1889 9 BMO Global Smaller Global Smaller Companies 12.2% 12.3% 11.3%
1926 10 Finsbury G&I UK Equity Income 12.3% 11.3% 11.2%
1889 11 Law Debenture UK Equity Income 12.8% 10.1% 11.1%
1929 12 Monks Global 14.4% 10.3% 11.0%
1912 13 Hansa (A share) Flexible Investment 3.6% 7.9% 10.8%
1887 14 JPMorgan Global G&I Global Equity Income 14.7% 10.2% 10.7%
1888 15 Bankers Global 14.1% 9.8% 10.6%
1868 16 Investment Company Flexible Investment 8.0% 4.6% 10.4%
1930 17 Henderson Far East Income Asia Pacific Equity Income 6.4% 10.0% 10.0%
1868 18 F&C Global 13.6% 9.2% 10.0%
1926 19 Temple Bar UK Equity Income 7.2% 7.8% 9.9%
1907 20 Murray International Global Equity Income 6.8% 10.0% 9.7%
1909 21 Witan Global 13.5% 8.4% 9.5%
1888 22 Alliance Trust Global 13.2% 8.8% 9.4%
1929 23 JPMorgan European Growth Europe 12.2% 8.2% 9.4%
1927 24 Brunner Global 13.6% 8.6% 9.4%
1887 25 Henderson Smaller UK Smaller Companies 17.6% 11.8% 9.1%
1889 26 Merchants UK Equity Income 10.4% 7.6% 8.9%
1873 27 Scottish American Global Equity Income 12.9% 9.1% 8.8%
1891 28 City of London UK Equity Income 8.2% 7.5% 8.8%
1923 29 Murray Income UK Equity Income 8.0% 7.4% 8.7%
1873 30 Dunedin Income Growth UK Equity Income 9.1% 6.8% 8.3%
1889 31 Edinburgh UK Equity Income 7.4% 6.9% 7.6%
1929 32 Shires Income UK Equity Income 9.4% 5.7% 7.2%
1907 33 Baillie Gifford China China / Greater China 7.9% 8.1% 5.9%
1898 34 Aberdeen Diversified I&G Flexible Investment 3.5% 3.6% 5.7%
1927 35 JPMorgan Japanese Japan 14.1% 7.1% 4.9%
Average 11.6% 9.3% 10.0%


As with all such tables, we need to be aware of survivorship basis. There would have been a lot more trusts of this vintage that existed back in January 1992 that are no longer around. And it will tend to be the best-performing trusts, relative to their chosen benchmarks, that are still with us today.



Long-term returns tend to bunch up


It’s interesting to see how the returns get more closely grouped over time though. Over 10 years the worst performer is Aberdeen Diversified Income & Growth at 3.5% pa and the best (no surprise) is Scottish Mortgage at an incredible 24.6%.

Over 30 years, the worst is 4.9% pa and the best (Scottish Mortgage again) is 14.7%. So none of these funds has managed to return in excess of 15% for the last three decades.

Half of these funds returned between 10% and 15% annualised over the last 30 years, 13 returned between 7.5% and 10% and 4 produced between 5% and 7.5%. That’s worth bearing in mind when setting your own expectations for very long-term returns.


How did the wider market do?



To add some context, stock market returns were excellent in both the 1990s and 2010s but pretty dreadful in the 2000s; UK inflation averaged 3% over this period and was between 2% and 4% nearly the whole time.

I don’t have precise data but I reckon global markets have returned roughly 14% a year over the last 10 years, 7% over the last 20, and 9% over the last 30. The UK market has returned roughly 8% a year over 10 years, 6% over 20, and 8% over 30; these are just estimates so I haven’t put the numbers in the table.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that trust discounts have narrowed over the last few decades and this means the share price total returns shown will be a little higher than the underlying net asset value returns.


Sector split


In terms of sectors, 12 of these veteran funds focus on the UK, 12 are Global, 3 each are Asia and Flexible, and 2 each are North America and Europe.

Somewhat surprising, to me anyway, is that only 3 of these funds have a smaller company focus but that may be because this sort of specialism, at least in terms of the timeframe we are looking at here, is a relatively recent phenomenon.


Long-term managers


Quite a few funds will have changed their remit at some point over the last 30 years so that may have an impact on their figures. Baillie Gifford China Growth was an Asian Pacific fund up until quite recently, for example, and there will have been numerous fund manager and/or fund management group changes, too.

Special mention should go to Job Curtis of City of London who I believe is the only manager to run one of these veteran trusts for the whole 30-year period. James Anderson at Scottish Mortgage (who is retiring soon) and Nick Train at Finsbury Growth & Income have both been in place for 21 years.


Returns by decade


Another way of looking at this data is to analyse how each trust did in each of the three past decades to gauge their consistency of returns a little better.

There is a select group of four trusts that have produced in excess of 10% annualised in each of the last three decades — AVI Global, TR Property, Canadian General Investments, and Finsbury Growth & Income. Scottish Mortgage and BMO Global Smaller Companies both came pretty close though.

None of these trusts has produced a negative total return in any decade (but see the earlier comments on survivorship bias) although JPMorgan Japanese came close on two occasions.

Obviously, we are looking at arbitrary periods when doing any sort of analysis like this and investing fashions play a big part in who does best and worst in any given period. The first decade (92 to 02) finished with the dot com bust and the second (02 to 12), comfortably the worst for returns, had the global financial crisis to deal with.


Younger trusts


There aren’t many younger trusts that have managed 15% annualised over the last 30 years. I reckon there are 46 trusts launched from 1952 to 1991 that are still in existence.

Of these young pups, HgCapital (launched in 1989), Rights & Issues (1962), ICG Enterprise (1981), and North Atlantic Smaller Companies (1973) are probably the most likely candidates as they all returned between 14% and 16% a year over the three decades to 30 September 2021 (figures from the latest Investment Trusts Handbook).

For more on long-term returns, you might also be interested in a piece I did on 20 global trusts about eighteen months ago as it has some figures for the likes of RIT Capital Partners, Capital Gearing, Personal Assets, Mid Wynd, and Caledonia.


Join me over at Money Makers: I’m now writing regular articles for Money Makers, a site set up by Jonathan Davis, the editor of the Investment Trusts Handbook. For more information on what you get as a member, simply click here.


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