Fund managers are often criticised for charging high fees yet also failing to deliver market-beating returns. But while many actively managed funds trail the market, there are few out there that have deservedly earned their fees after having massively outperformed the market over extended periods of time.
One such fund is the Lindsell Train Investment Trust (LSE: LTI). Shares in the multi-asset investment trust have delivered a total return of 233% over the past five years, allowing it to easily surpass the performance of its benchmark MSCI World Index, which gained just 76% in sterling terms. The FTSE 100 has fared even worse, with a total return of just 40% over the same period.
This one seeks to maximise long-term total returns by investing in a diversified portfolio of financial assets, including equities, and other Lindsell Train funds. But what really sets this trust apart from others is that it also owns a significant minority stake in its investment manager, Lindsell Train Limited.
This 24% stake in the investment management company co-founded by Michael Lindsell and Nick Train accounts for 43% of the value of its portfolio. However, with such a large position in a single unquoted investment, those who invest in the trust are highly exposed to fluctuations in the valuation of that single company. And although its position in Lindsell Train Limited has no doubt played a big role in the fund’s recent outperformance, past performance may not be indicative of future returns.
One important reason to be cautious is the high premium at which its shares trade against the underlying value of its assets. Shares in the trust are among the most expensive in the investment trust market — currently trading at a 41% premium to its net asset value (NAV), which is considerably higher than its 12-month average premium of 26%.
Although this reflects strong investor sentiment towards the fund, due to faith in management’s ability to outperform the market, the risk of losing money should the trust fall out of favour is greatly amplified.
Japan smaller companies
Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon (LSE: BGS) is another fund that has massively outperformed the FTSE 100. It aims to deliver attractive long-term capital growth by investing in value stocks in Japan’s small-cap space.
Shin Nippon, which means ‘new Japan’ in Japanese, has achieved this outperformance by focusing on fast-growing Japanese companies with innovative business models and dynamic management teams. The trust has a fantastic stock picking track record, and has achieved a five-year total return on 216%.
Its job has been made easier by the fact that many smaller Japanese companies have no broker coverage at all. This limited availability of sell-side coverage provides inefficiently priced opportunities which may be uncovered by the fund’s in-house research team.
Of course, the yen’s strength against the pound (or more correctly, sterling’s weakness) has also been an important contributor to the fund’s performance — but that doesn’t explain it all. This is because the trust has also significantly exceeded the gain of its benchmark, the MSCI Japan Small Cap Index, which achieved a return of 98% in sterling terms over the same period.
Shares in the trust trade at a 6% premium to NAV, which seems reasonable, being in line with its 12-month average premium of 5%.