Scottish Mortgage hires directors after bust-up

Baillie Gifford HQ in Edinburgh

The giant Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust announced on Wednesday the appointment of Sharon Flood and Vikram Kumaraswamy as independent non-executive directors of the company, with effect from May 17, 2023.

Flood is a non-executive director of Channel Tunnel operator Getlink SE and Pets at Home, while Kumaraswamy is the head of strategy and corporate development at Unilever.

Scottish Mortgage, Baillie Gifford’s flagship fund, had already announced big changes to its board on March 21 following claims by one departing director, Amar Bhidé, that he had been “removed … by the vote of the board.”

The £13.3 billion fund said on March 21 that Justin Dowley, the company’s current senior independent director, will succeed Fiona McBain as chair with effect from the 2023 AGM on June 27, subject to being re-elected by shareholders.

Bhidé had clashed with McBain over his assessment of the risks posed by the giant fund’s investments in unquoted companies — and over the process to appoint new board members.

Announcing the new directors on Wednesday, Scottish Mortgage said: “Sharon Flood is a Non-Executive Director of Getlink SE, where she is Chair of Safety and Security, and Pets at Home PLC, where she is Chair of the Remuneration Committee and formerly Chair of the Audit Committee.

“Sharon previously served as Chair of Seraphine Group PLC and S T DuPont SA, and as a Non-executive Director and Chair of the Audit Committees at Crest Nicolson PLC and Network Rail.

“A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Sharon has also held leadership roles at Sun European Partners and the John Lewis Partnership.

“She is currently a Trustee of the University of Cambridge and Trustee and formerly Chair of Finance at the Science Museum Group and Chair of Audit at Shelter.

“On appointment, Sharon will join the Audit Committee and Nomination Committee.

Vikram Kumaraswamy is the Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Unilever. He leads portfolio development and capital allocation for the group, with responsibility for strategy, M&A sourcing and execution, competitor intelligence and corporate venturing.

“A chartered accountant, Vikram was responsible for significant changes to Unilever’s portfolio, positioning the company for superior long-term growth and involved in other strategic transformation initiatives.

“Vikram was previously CFO of PT Unilever Indonesia Tbk, based in Jakarta. On appointment, Vikram will join the Audit Committee and Nomination Committee.

The appointments of Sharon Flood and Vikram Kumaraswamy are subject to shareholder approval at the Annual General Meeting of the company to be held on 27 June 2023.”

Scottish Mortgage saw its share price almost triple during 2020 and 2021 from around £5.80 to over £15, but the stock was routed amid the global sell off in the fund’s beloved “growth” and technology stocks and it currently trades around £6.18.

However, the fund has a very strong long term investment record. Over the last 10 years Scottish Mortgage returned 421% and 362% in net asset value (NAV) and share price terms respectively (total return) while the FTSE All World Index TR produced 183%.

McBain said: “On behalf of the board, I am delighted to welcome Sharon and Vikram to Scottish Mortgage.

“Sharon is a seasoned non-executive director having served on the boards of several high-profile companies, and Vikram brings great international perspective and insight to the board.

“They both have extensive experience relevant to the Trust’s portfolio and will undoubtedly make valuable contributions to the company.”