Investments  

Firing Line: Wouter Volckaert

Wouter Volckaert, lead manager of the Henderson Global Trust and a native Belgian, loves living in London.

He said: “It is the centre of the world at the moment and we have a garden for my son to run around in.

“From a work point of view, most companies that we invest in, they come to visit us. There are a lot of investment managers that I meet up with and we talk about the markets.”

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The markets are somewhat occupying Mr Volckaert’s mind at present. Speaking before the FTSE hit the 7,000 barrier, Mr Volckaert said that markets were being quite perplexing. They are showing signs of strong corporate activity, even though indicators suggest we are only at the beginning of the postive economic cycle.

He said: “We are not in bubble territory, but we are starting to get there. If you focus on the economy, it feels we are just at the start of things. It feels like the economy is just picking up and wages are starting to rise again. That gives you the complete opposite view that the market has gone up a lot.

“The market will be more driven by the economy. If the economy is positive, then equities will continue to do well. If the economy goes into a recession, we’re up for a reasonable correction.

“It feels like we are closer to the end rather than the beginning – there are signs we are quite far down this market rally. The initial public offering market is very hot at the moment; we have got start-up companies that are worth US$1bn (£670m) in the first year on the markets.”

In addition, he said, the traditional correlation between asset indicators is breaking down. “Typically, the long end of the yield curve goes up and equities go up; now we’re getting the long end of the yield curve going down and equities going up,” he said.

Mr Volckaert is responsible for looking after the £172m investment trust which invests across different economies.

He took over the trust a year ago, and it is hovering in the middle quartiles, although it has returned 2.66 per cent relative to its sector over the past year, compared to -1.67 per cent over the past three years.

It has a discount of about 7.5 per cent, as of January, and it has no leverage.

He said: “When I took over, the trust was underweight North America. The first thing I did was increase the exposure. I inherited 9 per cent North America, I went 55 per cent North America.

“The economy has better momentum in the US; the dollar is strong and it is the first country considering interest rate hikes. I could just find attractive companies.”

However, the dynamics are changing: “I see signs that Europe is doing a lot better than people give it credit for – I see things like credit growth, leading indicators such as surveys of chief executive sentiment, investments of companies picking up. All of that says the economy is doing better. The weak euro is going to help.