Best In Class  

Best in Class: Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust

Best in Class: Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust

Scotland has been on my mind recently.

Probably because, like most of the UK population, my wife and I have been glued to our seats for the past few weeks watching BBC One drama 'Bodyguard'.

Sergeant David Budd's accent is firmly entrenched in my brain. 

So I find myself writing about Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust this week.

Launched back in 1909, the origins of this trust date back to a credit crisis. Not the one we've all just lived through, but the 'panic' of 1907.

Also known as the Bankers' Panic or the Knickerbocker Crisis, it involved numerous runs on banks and trust companies, which resulted in the New York Stock Exchange falling by close to 50 per cent from its peak. Ultimately, credit became hard to obtain.

The Straits Mortgage and Trust Company Limited (as it was then named), was launched two years later by Augustus Baillie and Carlyle Gifford to fill the gap left by the banks.

Its purpose was to lend money to rubber plantations in the Far East, looking to benefit from increased demand for tyres, on the back of the burgeoning popularity of the motorcar.

Almost 110 years later, the trust is still run by Baillie Gifford.

While the world has changed significantly, the investment thesis is remarkably similar. Early investments reflected the rapid global industrialisation taking place at the time and were made all over the world.

Today, managers James Anderson and Tom Slater continue to run an unconstrained global mandate. They aim to invest in companies that are benefiting from transformational growth opportunities, known as industry disrupters.

Mr Anderson and Mr Slater have a patient buy and hold approach but, like 'Bodyguard', the trust is anything but dull.

The characteristics the managers look for in a company means there is a higher-than-average allocation to technology companies; the top 10 holdings currently represent 50 per cent of the entire portfolio, according to the fund fact sheet to 31 August 2018; gearing is normally capped at 30 per cent but can be as high as 50 per cent in exceptional circumstances. 

While the managers hold established companies like Amazon – which is the trust’s largest holding – they can also invest in unlisted companies.

Being able to back businesses pre-IPO presents the managers with a host of opportunities; over the years, they have established a strong track record of getting into successful companies early. For example, their more recent successes include Dropbox and Spotify.

The trust is also very progressive. At a time when there is increased scrutiny around gender equality on company boards, it is leading by example.

Fiona McBain has been on the board for almost a decade and became chairwoman in June of last year.