Fund that is no small beer

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Sometimes, in the pursuit of so-called progress, we overlook some of the sticking plaster that has cemented and held firm the City of London’s reputation for first-class asset management over the years.

We take it for granted when we should not. Or we ignore it because we are searching breathlessly for the latest investment gizmo.

Last week, I had the privilege to attend a drinks reception hosted by the directors of The City of London Investment Trust – a £1.2bn fund that quietly goes about its business of delivering long-term growth in income and capital for shareholders.

It is very much part of London’s ‘sticking plaster’ and does not get the praise it should do.

Maybe it is too conservative by half, not racy enough (to sell to investors) or of the moment. Or maybe it is not passive enough in an investment era where passive investment is all the rage.

The reception was held in the East Crypt beneath Guildhall in London, a medieval crypt that dates back to Edward the Confessor (1042).

Its marvellous stained glass windows depict Geoffrey Chaucer, William Caxton, Sir Thomas More, Sir Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys. If you get the chance, pay it a visit – it will take your breath away.

London continues to surprise me at every twist and turn. It should do the same for you.

All the trust’s directors were present, including Philip Remnant, who has been chairman for going on five years.

A jolly affair it turned out to be and quite rightly so, for there was much to celebrate. Fifty years – yes, half a century – of unbroken dividend increases for shareholders to enjoy, a record unrivalled by any other investment fund or trust registered in the UK.

And, the cream on the cake: 25 years of successful investment management under the guiding hand of Job Curtis, a 54-year-old fund manager with asset manager Henderson.

There are not that many fund managers in the City who survive 25 years with their investment reputation intact, although Mr Curtis, a modest man, refuses to boast about his success. Instead, he prefers to praise the 12-strong global equity income team at Henderson that he is part of – and which feeds into the investment process underpinning The City of London.

Although the trust can trace its routes back to 1860, when the company was formed as City of London Brewery Company Limited, it was not until 1968 that it became a fully fledged investment vehicle.

Undergoing a couple of other transmogrifications – first The City of London Brewery and Investment Trust Limited and then in 1982 TR City of London Trust plc – it finally became The City of London Investment Trust plc in October 1997.

The trust’s record is impeccable whichever way you want to assess it. Investing primarily in UK equities (89 per cent of its assets are in the UK), it has outperformed the average of its peers (UK equity income investment trusts) over the past one, three, five and 10 years.