Alliance Trust, £4bn Dundee fund, in stock picker move

Alliance Trust plc, the £3.9 billion Dundee-headquartered fund, announced that its external investment manager Willis Tower Watson (WTW) has appointed a new stock picker for its multi-manager global equity portfolio.

ARGA Investment Management replaces Jupiter Asset Management following Ben Whitmore’s decision to leave Jupiter later this year and set up his own business.

ARGA has been allocated 8% of the Alliance Trust portfolio to manage, funded from Jupiter’s allocation, with some minor adjustments to other stock picker allocations.

Alliance Trust uses external fund managers Willis Towers Watson which in turn appoints a number of other stock picking firms with different styles “who each ignore the benchmark and only buy a small number of stocks in which they have strong conviction.”

Craig Baker, WTW’s chief investment officer and chair of investment committee, said: “While we continue to have high regard for Ben’s skill as an investor, this change of circumstances introduces potential risks which will take time to fully assess.

“We have therefore decided to replace Ben’s allocation with one run by another stock picker with a similar value-investing philosophy.

“This will ensure the portfolio remains balanced across investment styles, regions, and sectors, and continues to seek to generate market outperformance from stock selection.

“We would like to express our appreciation to Ben, his team and Jupiter for their contribution to Alliance Trust over the last seven years and wish Ben well in his new venture, which we will monitor with interest.

“At the same time, we are excited by the opportunity to introduce a new stock picker with an innovative and disciplined value process, and a large and diverse team providing research breadth and fresh ideas.”

Alliance Trust said ARGA is a global value manager, founded in 2010 by chief investment officer A. Rama Krishna, who has over 30 years’ experience managing global and emerging markets equities.

“He previously worked at Pzena Investment Management from 2003 to 2010 where he led development of global value strategies while co-heading the emerging markets value team,” said Alliance Trust.

“Prior to that he worked for Citigroup Asset Management and AllianceBernstein.

“ARGA has £11.8 billion of assets under management as of 31 March 2024 and its staff are based in Stamford, USA, Chennai and Mumbai, India, and London.

“The firm’s investment philosophy is rooted in traditional value principles which seek to capitalise on investors overreacting to negative events and mistaking temporary stresses in share prices for permanent losses of capital.”

On March 7, Alliance Trust published its results for the year ended December 31, 2023, showing total shareholder return of 20.2%.

This result was 4.9% ahead of the investment trust’s benchmark, the MSCI All Country World Index (MSCI ACWI) which returned 15.3%.

Alliance Trust’s net asset value total return of 21.6% as at December 31 was 6.3% ahead of the benchmark.

The company said it has delivered a total shareholder return of 79.3% over the five-year period to December 31, equivalent to 12.4% per annum.

A fourth interim dividend 6.34p was declared, bringing the total dividend for the year to 25.2p per share.

This was a 5% increase on the previous year, the 57th consecutive annual increase.

The Alliance Trust fund’s 20 biggest investments at December 31, 2023, were Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Visa, Nvidia, Mastercard, Petrobras, UnitedHealth Group, TotalEnergies, Meta, MercadoLibre, Airbus, Diageo, ASML, Canadian Pacific, HDFC Bank, Adani Enterprises, VINCI, AIA and Fiserv.

Alliance Trust stock pickers have included Black Creek Investment Management, GQG Partners, Jupiter Asset Management, Lyrical Asset Management, Sustainable Growth Advisers, Veritas Asset Management, Vulcan Value Partners, Sands Capital Management, Metropolis Capital Limited and Dalton Investments.