Co-Fund Manager of Lowland Investment Company, a Janus Henderson-managed investment trust.
Since the early 1960s, Lowland Investment Company has targeted income and capital growth for its shareholders over the medium to long-term. The Trust has a mandate to invest across the spectrum of UK equities and has always had a bias towards medium and smaller-sized companies, but will typically hold a number of larger, household brands. Laura Foll was appointed Co-Fund Manager of the Trust in 2016.
When he is not working, James enjoys attending various events in the horse racing calendar; as well as shooting, tennis and rugby; and has a reputation as a devastating pugilist.
What does the Trust do?
The Trust invests predominantly in UK companies but can invest overseas where opportunities arise. The portfolio is always a blend of large, medium and smaller companies, but we tend to have a bias towards the medium and smaller companies because they have a greater capacity for growth. They can sometimes also be overlooked or misunderstood by the market.
How would you describe your style as a professional fund manager?
Laura and I apply a mildly contrarian approach to the portfolio, which means we invest at the point that a company is out of favour, unloved or simply less well-known and therefore covered less by brokers and analysts. We enjoy meeting companies and getting to know the management teams before deciding whether or not we want to buy or sell shares of a company.
That means we are constantly performing due diligence and comparing our notes as the years go by; and in some cases getting to know the companies very well.
Who would typically invest in Lowland Investment Company?
Someone who wants a good level of income generation from their equity holdings; we pay a quarterly dividend and try to make that dividend predictable over time. If you go back all the way to when Lowland was founded in 1963, the dividend has never been cut – some years have been flat but it has never been reduced. Of course, we can’t make any predictions or give any guarantees, but we do try to make the dividend predictable for shareholders, and the investment trust structure with its revenue reserve feature will hopefully allow us to do that over time.
You’ve seen a number of economic cycles, bubbles and crashes in your investment career, so where does Brexit rank among them and what effect is the Brexit saga having on UK equities?
We can’t get away from Brexit. It will change how certain companies trade with Europe going forward (if it happens), but there are many companies, particularly smaller companies, that control their own destiny. If they get it right, regardless of the economic background or the outcome of Brexit, they will be a good investment.
I don’t like to make any big calls on things like Brexit or economic speculation. We focus on companies and whether they can get through whatever is thrown at them. If a company is excellent and has excellent products it will be alright; Brexit may cause turbulence in places and make it difficult for certain companies, but if your products or services are good then you’ll get through it. We could be overplaying Brexit and the problems it might bring. The press like to dwell on economic catastrophe, but it’s rarely as bad as you are led to believe it will be.
Let’s try to get away from it: describe your perfect dining companion.
I’m not sure how I would define my perfect dining companion, but I enjoy the experience most when I am with family – when they are in a good mood that is…
Money is no object. Describe your perfect Last Supper.
I like to keep it relatively simple with my food, so I would go for steak, followed by strawberries and cream. Perfect!
What’s the best – and worst – game dish you’ve ever eaten?
The best game dish I’ve ever had would have to be Muntjac deer. It was delicious. The worst game dish I’ve eaten is probably overcooked pheasant. That was not delicious.
Is there any game you don’t – or wouldn’t – eat?
I’m not a terribly fussy eater. I’ll try pretty much anything if it’s offered.