THE SUITS : Searight's secret

This week Societe Generale, one of Europe's largest banks,launches an investment trust dedicated to companies with market capitalisation of less than £100m. The board will include such heavyweights as Sir Brian Corby, chairman of Prudential and a former director of the Bank of England. But the driving force looks like being Peter Searight, who has carved out a reputation in the world of smaller companies investment.

He was lured from Clerical Medical where he was head of research and ran the company's Pedigree Growth Trust, which in his charge rose from a lowly player to outperform other similar funds by an average of nearly 2 per cent a year.

The secret of his success is simple: rigorous research. Butthat is easier said than done when smaller companies are regarded by many brokers as a Cinderella area, commonly staffed by less experienced employees. In this, though, 41-year-old Mr Searight feels he has another advantage. A graduate in engineering from Exeter University, he did a turn in industry before joining the scribblers in the Square Mile. Experience of the sharp end helps with the analysis, he says. "It's amazing what you can pick up."

He adds that the four-man management team at Montanaro UK Smaller Companies Investment Trust will spend a lot of time visiting the 50 or so companies it reckons on investing in. If you have time to visit them carefully, he says, "you can make sure you're not taking big risks".

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