Anthony Hilton: Keeping it in the family pays off handsomely for Witan


Tremendous results this week from Witan, the investment trust.

It increased net asset value by 29.4 per cent, which is way ahead of its benchmarks and paved the way for the 39th consecutive year of increased dividends. Over the past five years the value of the trust has doubled.

It is a reminder that old money knows how to look after itself. Witan was set up in 1909 by Alexander Henderson, the first Lord Faringdon and the founder of Cazenove, the most blue-blooded of the stockbroking firms. Its purpose was to manage the family money.

According to a family history published 30 years ago, Witan was created and endowed because Faringdon did not trust the judgement of his son. He wanted somewhere to put his money where the latter could not get his hands on it to make sure it survived for his grandchildren.

The plan obviously worked. In 1924 Witan listed on the Stock Exchange and in 1932 it founded Henderson Administration as in-house managers to invest its funds. That group today is known as Henderson Global Investors and though now independently owned, it remains one of the UK’s most successful fund managers.

The City may be an international financial centre but the old ties still bind. Witan’s chairman, Harry Henderson, is still family.