The Analyst: Small really is beautiful in Cazenove’s cap boutique

 

If you cast your mind back to the beginning of 2012 the investment world was full of worry.

Events in Europe suggested a breakup was a clear possibility, data from China indicated a “hard landing” from its previously stellar growth rate, a possible Iranian threat was looming and the American elections and so-called “fiscal cliff” were a source of uncertainty. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all changed for the better overnight, but things are starting to look up.

In Europe, the can has been kicked more firmly down the road. Meanwhile, Chinese data are beginning to look more positive, and areas which have been performing well this year might surprise a few people.

Given the macroeconomic concerns many people thought large, defensive stocks would be the place to be. Yet it turns out that many have been lacklustre. In the case of pharmaceuticals such as GlaxoSmithKline, they have lost most of the gains made in 2011.

Instead, among the best performers are funds investing in small and medium-sized companies, one exceptional performer being Cazenove UK Smaller Companies run by Paul Marriage, which is up around 32 per cent since the beginning of the year.

What I like about this fund is that it is a genuine smaller-company portfolio, not a mid-cap fund in disguise.  It has about 10 per cent in “microcaps”, companies under £50m in size, 28 per cent in £50m-£100m stocks and 32 per cent in firms of between £100m and £250m, with the balance in stocks over £250m.

Mr Marriage observes that microcaps are at present the laggards when it comes to share-price performance as there is little interest from fund managers. Interestingly, it is high net-worth private investors that are more active in this area.

Mr Marriage is aided by John Warren, the fund’s deputy manager, whom he believes is especially good at timing buys and sells.

It is extremely important for fund managers to have someone they can rely on when out of the office.

Mr Marriage is satisfied that lines of communications are short and that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. The pair do not waste time debating the economic climate but spend the majority of time meeting company management.

Time and again I hear smaller company managers feel the quality of the management is the most important ingredient they look for, and the meetings they have are extremely helpful in this regard. There are no fancy in-house proprietary systems. It’s a fund where good old-fashioned shoe leather is used to find out what makes companies tick.

Despite the strong run this year the Paul Marriage is still finding plenty of opportunities: companies such as Scapa, an adhesive tape manufacturer; Emis, which develops and supplies software to GP surgeries; Avon Rubber, whose products include gasmasks and tubing for dairies; and Xaar, a supplier of industrial inkjet printheads.

None of these areas seems particularly exciting, which is perhaps why they have been overlooked.

Energy and mining, areas which many investors do find exciting, are absent from the portfolio. Mr Marriage feels he can offer little added value here as share prices are often driven by macroeconomic factors and commodity prices more than anything else.

The excellent performance of this fund, and the sector as a whole, is perhaps indicative of the changing world of small caps. Thirty or 40 years ago they were much more closely tied to the UK economy. Today, half of company profits across Mr Marriage’s portfolio are from overseas.

Although Mr Marriage sees the mid-cap index as being a little overpriced, he still thinks there is plenty of value in smaller companies and feels increased merger and acquisition activity could benefit a number of his holdings.

Small-cap shares can be exceptionally volatile but for those investing for the long term, I believe it should continue to be a worthwhile area to have exposure to. It tends to be under-researched – meaning talented fund managers who really do their homework can show a clean pair of heels to passively managed funds.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Sell it with flowers: competition is 'intense' for homes with outside spaces

Gardens add a tenth to the value of your home

A London estate agent yesterday put a price on having a garden. David Pollock of Greene & Co reckons it can increase a property's value by a tenth.

Spectators at the Isle of Wight music festival watch the World Cup on the big screen. Betting promotions were a feature of the tournament
Lenders have been accused of persuading vulnerable people to borrow expensive credit

Payday loan firms accused of bombarding vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls

Payday loan firms have been accused of bombarding financially vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls, after a debt charity reported that a third of its clients were plagued by the messages.

The foundation proposed that the Government sets up a scheme to help people avoid losing their homes

Mortgages: 'Homeowners could trade down to shared ownership to defuse rate rise timebomb'

A plan to defuse a “mortgage debt timebomb” when interest rates rise is published today amid warnings that 2.3m households could struggle with their repayments.

Current accounts are too costly and confusing, says CMA as it announces investigation into Britain's biggest banks

Competition regulator to investigate market where it's hard for customers to make comparisons and the big banks' charges can be set too high
All the signs have been pointing up for buy-to-let, but there are clouds on the horizon

Buy-to-let: is it a boom or a bubble fit to burst?

People borrowing to be landlords could face the same restrictions as homebuyers, with MPs voicing fears that property speculation may be overheating the market

Moment of truth for payday lenders: Watchdog plans to curb cost of short-term loans

The chief of the City watchdog, Martin Wheatley, spoke exclusively to The Independent's Simon Read about its attempts to control the worst excesses of unscrupulous high-cost credit companies

Consumers given power to choose a green deal

How would you like to be able to choose how your electricity is made and even where it come from? It may sound futuristic and fanciful but the independent supplier Co-operative Energy has made it a reality this week.

'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers

City regulator says existing customers suffer worst rates

Motor insurers divided on proposals for whiplash ban

MPs want medical evidence for claims. Will this bring higher premiums?

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little