Amateur stock pickers find platinum and hope for gold

Investment club ousts college girls from lead in Share Challenge contest. Jamie Felix reports

As the second Share Challenge competition enters its final months, the race is hotting up, with all three teams scrambling to bank profits and trade their way to the top. For the first time this year, the 15-year-old schoolgirls from Leicester have lost their lead to the Bucket & Spade Investment Club, which moved into pole position with its 10.2 per cent increase in portfolio value, versus the 9.2 per cent rise from the students.

However, there is still little holiday cheer for professional asset manager Colin McLean, who continues to languish in third place with losses of 12 per cent. With less than three months to go before the end, McLean has his work cut out if he plans to repair his deficit and catch the amateurs.

The amateur club, whose members are engineers in BT's Bournemouth office, are relishing their move into the top spot and are firmly committed to maintaining their lead and winning the £2,000 cash prize.

Even more impressive, the investment club's 10.2 per cent surge has pushed it ahead of the FTSE AllShare index (up 9.9 per cent), which is the first time a competitor has eclipsed the market intwo years.

The club, which has added 13 per cent to its portfolio value in two months, admits such explosive growth does not come easily. David Lawrence, the head of the investment club, says its performance reflects an overhaul in the team's strategy: "As a club, we generally pursue companies with longer-term anticipated growth. But when we saw the students widening their lead, we knew we needed to adopt a more active plan and we have moved into more volatile shares." The team has bulked up on companies in the natural resources and mining sectors, including Aquarius Platinum, one of its top performers so far, up 26 per cent since September. Even amateur investors have the tools to find hidden gems, explains Lawrence: "I spotted Aquarius in the summer when I was running an internet search for new investments in the mining sector for our club. I liked the look of its charts and forecasts." Other gains have come from holdings in Kelda, Vedanda and Premier Oil.

If there is any fault with the strategy of the pupils from Moat Community College, Leicester, it is that they have been too cautious, banking profits early. They are none too happy losing their top position so late in the game. From day one, the girls have maintained a well-diversified portfolio, which has proved the key to their solid, steady performance month after month. The team banked a clean profit from its shares in Marks & Spencer, which it sold at 415p in early November. Yet the share price has not stopped rising, hitting 460p earlier this week. The girls have now repurchased the share, but had they held on from the beginning, they would now be basking in a 20 per cent gain, rather than a mere 8 per cent.

The City expert Colin McLean, who is chief executive of SVM Asset Management, is plagued by the opposite problem, holding on to certain hard-hit shares for too long in the hope that they would reverse their falls. The Aim-listed gas and oil exploration company First Calgary Petroleum, which was initially among the expert's most promising picks, turned into a serious loss after the company released poor results earlier this year. As the share slumped further, McLean kept piling in.

McLean blames the contest's rules, which limit each team to five shares at any one time, and the short-term pressure to deliver results, for distorting his performance so far.

McLean has since tightened his portfolio with a crop of companies that are narrowing the gulf with the amateurs. Shares in Ashtead Group, an equipment manufacturer, and Crosby Capital Partners, a merchant banker, have both proved juicy earners.

Abbey Sharedealing, the discount broker, is sponsoring the Independent Share Challenge.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

    £350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

    Chief Financial Officer

    120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?