Top performing investment trust manager to retire

Sarah Whitley, the respected fund manager who has managed the Baillie Gifford Japan Trust (BGFD) since 2001, will retire next April.

Following her retirement Matthew Brett will take over as lead manager, supported by Praveen Kumar as deputy portfolio manager. Brett is co-manager of three open-ended Japan funds: Baillie Gifford Japanese, Baillie Gifford Global Select and Baillie Gifford Japanese Income Growth. Kumar is lead manager of Shin Nippon, which is one of Money Observer’s adventurous fund tips for 2017/18.

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Whitley, who is also co-manager of Baillie Gifford Japanese, is head of the Japanese equities team at Baillie Gifford, a place where she has worked for 37 years.

She is regarded as one of the best Japanese stock pickers, which has been a tricky market to navigate due to the fact that its economy has been mired in stagnation for much of her career.  According to FE Trustnet, the analyst, Whitely has over her career ‘managed to outperform the peer group’ in both rising and falling markets. 

On a five year view BGFD’s share price has risen 270 per cent, while over three years’ the trust has doubled investors’ money, up 100 per cent. BGFD has been a Money Observer Rated Fund since 2015.   

Andrew Telfer, joint senior partner at Baillie Gifford, says: ‘Sarah has generated excellent returns for clients over more than three decades and built a significant Japanese equities client base. We would like to thank her for her remarkable dedication to the firm.’ 

In BGFD’s latest results, released this morning, the trust reported that it outperformed its benchmark index (the TOPIX total return) over the year to 31 August 2017 by 8.8 percentage points. Net asset value per share, after deducting borrowings at fair value, rose 27.6 per cent, ahead of the benchmark index gain of 18.8 per cent. In addition, over the period BGFD’s share price increased by 37.5 per cent.  

Investment trust specialists, including Tony Yousefian, at FundCalibre, are retaining their support for BGFD.

He says: ‘The Baillie Gifford Japanese equity team has a very much team-based approach, so although Sarah will be a loss - it is her team and has been for some time - we are confident they can continue to do well for investors when Sarah retires in April. Matthew Brett, the new named manager, is often the manager our research team meets and we rate Praveen Kumar, the new deputy, so Sarah is leaving the fund and trust in good hands.’

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