Firing line  

Nick Train: The biggest dividend I receive is the ability to run the money my way

Nick Train: The biggest dividend I receive is the ability to run the money my way

Nick Train has just passed 20 years as manager of the Finsbury Growth and Income trust and his other mandates, but says it is a “lucky thing” he is here at all after the way his career started.

Train is known for a particular style of running money, based on owning very concentrated portfolios of large companies, focused on a small number of sectors.

He began his career at GT Management and spent 17 years there before leaving when the firm was acquired by Invesco. He then spent three years at M&G, latterly as head of global equities, before setting up his own shop in 2000. 

Train manages the Finsbury Growth and Income Trust, and UK and Global equity funds. 

The results have generally been strong, with the trust returning 245 per cent over the past decade, compared with 138 per cent for the average trust in the sector in the same time period. 

This approach is often called quality growth, but is a long way from how he began his career in the City. 

He says: “The first mandate I was ever given to run was something which had a very high dividend yield and I had to run it that way, and really I was a deep value investor, and my job was to buy companies, a lot of crap companies to be frank, which had high yields.

"But the market knew the companies were crap, which is why the share price was so low, and the yield so high. Frankly I was very lucky that when that was happening, it was the start of a period of a lot of M&A activity in the UK as a lot of those terrible businesses consolidated.

"If I was still owning some of those companies now, I would not be sitting here, as I would not have a very good track record. But after that time, I said I would never again buy a stock just for the dividend, as it is not in the best interests of shareholders.” 

Growth and value

Train’s success over the past decade has coincided with a world of low interest rates and low inflation, conditions that have prompted many market participants to question whether his performance will be as strong in the years to come, as those conditions may be about to reverse, if inflation rises and people switch to stocks that are more economically cyclical and are known as 'value stocks', with the sort of investments favoured by Train usually called 'growth stocks'.

Investor wariness about what comes next for the mandates run by Train can be seen in the downward movement of the share price since May 2021, when it was above £9, as inflation worries have gripped the market.

Train is a hugely experienced interviewee, but gets animated at the mention of growth and value investing, a topic that permeates most conversations about equity markets today. 

He says: “Value versus growth is not the correct distinction. In our opinion there are only two valid ways to think about investing: there is momentum investing, where people are constantly trying to preempt what happens next to a share price in the short term – and there is nothing wrong with being a momentum investor, some of the great hedge fund managers are great at this – and the other style of investing is about the long-term value of an asset, whether it is fast growing.