Rated Fund 2013-2017. Makes use of external managers to good effect
Witan, founded in 1909, is one of the investment trust industry's 'dividend heroes'. Although its yield is relatively modest at 2 per cent, it has clocked up 41 consecutive years of annual dividend increases.
Since the arrival of chief executive Andrew Bell in 2010, its capital performance has also improved significantly. Most of its portfolio is managed by external fund managers. When it first adopted this approach in 2004, there was a heavy allocation to index-tracking funds. Under Bell, who decides the asset allocation and chooses the external managers, the trust has become actively managed.
Witan has played an important role in the history of the investment trust industry. Having originally been created as a family trust to manage the Henderson family estate, Witan sponsored the setting up of the investment group Hendersons in 1932 to manage its investments.
The trust became self-managed in 2004, but there is still a member of the Henderson family on the board, current chairman Harry Henderson.
When the trust first adopted its multi-manager stance, its dependence on index trackers resulted in a rather mediocre performance. Under Bell, it reverted to active mandates and Bell himself took over responsibility for the direct investment of nearly 10 per cent of the portfolio.
The remainder is divided among 10 to 15 external managers running different geographical portfolios. The blend of different active approaches and styles is aimed at improving returns and helping to smooth out the volatility normally associated with a single manager.