WitanSep 21 2017

Witan’s Bell on how he is investing for low inflation

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Witan’s Bell on how he is investing for low inflation

Structural trends will keep a lid on global inflation for years to come but there are still markets to buy into for profit, according to Andrew Bell, chief executive of the £2.1bn Witan Investment Trust.

Witan is a multi-manager fund, with Mr Bell and his colleagues broadly deciding to which markets they wish to allocate capital, and then placing the cash with fund managers in whom he trusts.

He said while the outlook for global economic growth has improved, and while that has already led to inflation picking up in many markets, technological change, and ageing populations are likely to act as a downward driver of inflation, even if global growth picks up.

Ageing populations are inherently dis-inflationary because the old generally spend less than the young, he noted, while technological change is dis-inflationary because it drives down the cost of many goods and services.

After a prolonged period of having little exposure to emerging markets, Mr Bell said he made an investment of £7m in emerging markets in January this year, months after US President Donald Trump was elected and when sentiment towards the asset class slumped.

He has continued to increase his exposure to emerging markets since Mr Trump took charge of the US.

The fund he bought in January was Somerset Emerging Markets.

Jonathan Davis, who runs Jonathan Davis Wealth Management in Hertford, said he began to move into emerging market equities last year as those assets tend to perform well when global inflation was increasing.

Mr Bell said emerging markets in general have younger populations and a greater level of economic growth than their developed market peers, and so investing there is to an extent escaping some of the long-term problems of the rest of the world.

The second market to which he has increased his allocation over the past year is Europe, having previously been very bearish on the outlook for the economic bloc, and having less capital deployed in the asset class than the market average.

This has been achieved through buying futures products that deliver a return if the market rises.

He uses those products when he initially has a strong view on a market.

If he continues to have that view then he seeks out an active fund manager.   

Mr Bell said: “People had previously been finding a reason not to like Europe, not to buy European shares, then we had a spell around April where people were, for the first time in years trying to find an excuse to buy Europe.

"Now we have the strength of the Euro acting to make investors wary again."