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Returns From The Oldest Trusts – Revisited

A little over a year ago, the AIC set out the 30-year returns for the trusts that have been with us for 70 years or more. The data has just been updated so let’s see what impact the events of the last year have had.

I covered last year’s release in this article if you want to look at the previous version. It was created to honour the 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign while the updated list goes back to the birth of King Charles III but both lists essentially cover the same trusts.

There are 36 trusts on the latest list and they were launched between 1868 and 1947. 3i, which was launched in 1945, wasn’t on the first list but is included this time. However, there is only return data for 3i available back to the start of 1995 that I can find freely available, so its figures are for 28 and a bit years not the full 30.

The 36 trusts are predominantly equity trusts investing in either the UK or globally as regional specialisation and alternative assets are more recent developments.

All the return data below is based on share price total returns, so it includes reinvested dividends and any costs charged within the trust itself (i.e. not dealing charges or admin charges levied by any investment platform).

I’ve added rows for the average of all trusts plus the FTSE All-Share and FTSE World although trackers following these indices would have returned slightly less due to their own internal costs (trackers didn’t really exist in the UK back in 1993 either but that’s another issue).

I reckon there are 85 trusts that have a 30-year track record at this point so this list of veterans represents just under half of that wider group. Only around a dozen trusts that launched in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s are still with us today so most of the other trusts that have a 30-year track record but that aren’t on this list date back to the 1980s and early 1990s.

However, if you’re looking for the likes of Personal Assets, Capital Gearing, Caledonia, RIT Capital Partners, Mid Wynd, JPMorgan Claverhouse, Lowland, and private equity trusts like Pantheon, ICG Enterprise, and HgCapital, that’s the reason they don’t appear. A number of these younger trusts have produced better returns than those shown below — HgCapital, Rights & Issues, ICG Enterprise, Fidelity European, and North Atlantic Smaller Companies have all returned between 13 and 15% a year over the last three decades.

Survivorship bias

Survivorship bias is something to be aware of when looking at any long-term data like this. This list only includes trusts still in existence today and not those that have been wound up or merged into other trusts. Surviving trusts are likely to be the best performers over the long term so looking back at their return data alone gives a flattering view of how the average investor of the time would have done. Unfortunately, we don’t know the extent of the, er, flatterence.

About 30% of trusts that were in existence in early 2007 are no longer with us. A similar pattern of decline would suggest that only around a quarter of trusts that were around 70 years ago have survived until today. Fewer new trusts seem to have been launched between the end of the Second World War and the end of the 1970s, suggesting the actual survival rate could be somewhat higher.

Nearly all the trusts will have changed individual managers over the last three decades (I think Job Curtis at City of London is the only manager to have managed one of these trusts for the full 30 years) and many of them will have changed investment management firms as well.

I don’t think many of these trusts have changed their main investment focus over the last few decades. Baillie Gifford China Growth used to be an Asian Pacific fund up until a few years ago but that’s probably the most radical change I can think of looking down the list. It’s more of a tweak than a big shift and it only happened quite recently.

The best-performing old-timers

That’s enough pre-amble. Let’s get stuck into the data. Here is the list, sorted by 30-year annualised performance. You can click on all the column headers to change the sort order:

Company nameAIC sectorLaunched10 years20 years30 years
TR PropertyProperty Securities19058.0%11.8%12.6%
Canadian General InvestmentsNorth America193012.3%11.9%11.9%
Scottish MortgageGlobal190916.1%15.3%11.7%
Henderson European FocusEurope194710.6%12.4%11.6%
BlackRock Smaller CompaniesUK Smaller Companies19069.9%15.6%11.3%
AVI GlobalGlobal18899.0%11.4%11.0%
3i GroupPrivate Equity194522.8%15.4%11.0% *
Finsbury Growth & IncomeUK Equity Income19269.5%13.3%10.7%
Law DebentureUK Equity Income18899.9%11.7%10.4%
MercantileUK All Companies18847.9%11.5%10.4%
JPMorgan AmericanNorth America188114.5%12.2%10.3%
JPMorgan Global G&IGlobal Equity Income188713.7%12.8%9.9%
Hansa Investment CompanyFlexible Investment19122.8%8.9%9.8%
Global Smaller CompaniesGlobal Smaller Companies18898.1%13.9%9.7%
JPMorgan European G&IEurope192910.5%11.0%9.5%
Murray InternationalGlobal Equity Income19076.2%12.1%9.5%
Investment CompanyFlexible Investment18686.9%6.7%9.4%
Temple BarUK Equity Income19264.7%9.2%8.9%
Average of all trusts
Alliance TrustGlobal188811.2%10.0%8.7%
FTSE World (Index)
Global198611.5%10.5%8.5% *
MerchantsUK Equity Income18898.9%9.7%8.4%
Scottish AmericanGlobal Equity Income187312.2%11.6%8.2%
City of LondonUK Equity Income18916.7%9.2%8.2%
Henderson Far East IncomeAsia Pacific Equity Income19303.4%9.0%8.2%
Murray IncomeUK Equity Income19236.1%8.9%7.8%
Dunedin Income GrowthUK Equity Income18736.3%8.5%7.4%
FTSE All-Share (Index)
UK19626.4%7.9%7.4% *
EdinburghUK Equity Income18896.1%9.9%7.3%
Henderson Smaller CompaniesUK Smaller Companies18879.2%14.2%7.3%
Shires IncomeUK Equity Income19296.4%10.0%6.4%
abrdn Diversified I&GFlexible Investment18981.1%4.9%4.3%
Baillie Gifford China GrowthChina / Greater China19072.3%7.8%3.9%
JPMorgan JapaneseJapan19279.0%8.3%3.5%

*  the start of the data for 3i is January 1995 and for the FTSE World and FTSE All-Share indices it is January 1994. The figures in the 30-year column for these items have been annualised from those dates instead.

We have a new leader in this updated list with TR Property taking over from Scottish Mortgage. TR Property didn’t have a great year last year but Scottish Mortgage did much worse. This, combined with a slightly different start date, is enough to drag Scottish Mortgage’s annualised return down from 14.7% to 11.7%. The average for all trusts over the last 30 years has dropped quite a bit, from 10.0% last time to 8.8%.

In fact, the start date of April 1993 has shifted quite a few things around, primarily because the 20-year data now starts in April 2003, the nadir of the dot-com bear market. That’s helped the 20-year record of the ‘growthier’ trusts on this list compared to the previous start date of February 2002. You could argue that April 1993, April 2003, and April 2013 all marked relative low points for market returns although 1993 and 2013 were less extreme than 2003. As for April 2023, only time will tell…

Canadian General Investments, Henderson Euro Focus, JPMorgan American, and Scottish Mortgage boast 10%+ returns over all three time periods with a number of other trusts coming within a whisker of doing so. 3i’s stellar performance over the last decade — it’s the best performer out of all investment trusts — means that it’s still near the top of the pile despite having rather indifferent returns in the 1990s and 2000s.

Global trusts have generally beaten UK trusts over the last three decades, thanks to the UK market lagging global equity returns for the last several years. But even allowing for some survivorship bias, it’s impressive that only four of the 36 trusts have trailed the All-Share over the last three decades.

Returns by decade

I think it’s also useful to examine returns by decade again as it gives a clearer picture of which trusts have been the most consistent. The more specialised a trust is, the harder it is to be consistent over time given that investment fashions wax and wane.

Here is the same list breaking down the figures into three ten-year blocks:

Company nameAIC sectorLaunch date2013-20232003-20131993-2003
TR PropertyProperty Securities19058.0%15.6%14.3%
Canadian General InvestmentsNorth America193012.3%11.4%12.0%
Scottish MortgageGlobal190916.1%14.5%4.9%
Henderson European FocusEurope194710.6%14.2%10.0%
BlackRock Smaller CompaniesUK Smaller Companies19069.9%21.6%3.1%
AVI GlobalGlobal18899.0%13.8%10.3%
3i GroupPrivate Equity194522.8%8.5%0.8% *
Finsbury Growth & IncomeUK Equity Income19269.5%17.2%5.9%
Law DebentureUK Equity Income18899.9%13.6%7.7%
MercantileUK All Companies18847.9%15.2%8.1%
JPMorgan AmericanNorth America188114.5%10.0%6.6%
JPMorgan Global G&IGlobal Equity Income188713.7%12.1%4.4%
HansaFlexible Investment19122.8%15.4%11.5%
Global Smaller CompaniesGlobal Smaller Companies18898.1%19.9%1.9%
JPMorgan European G&IEurope192910.5%11.4%6.7%
Murray InternationalGlobal Equity Income19076.2%18.4%4.3%
Investment CompanyFlexible Investment18686.9%6.5%15.0%
Temple BarUK Equity Income19264.7%13.8%8.5%
Average of all trusts8.8%12.4%5.3%
Alliance TrustGlobal188811.2%8.9%6.1%
MerchantsUK Equity Income18898.9%10.6%5.8%
FTSE World (index)
Global198611.5%9.6%4.1% *
Scottish AmericanGlobal Equity Income187312.2%10.9%1.9%
City of LondonUK Equity Income18916.7%11.6%6.3%
Henderson Far East IncomeAsia Pacific Equity Income19303.4%14.9%6.5%
Murray IncomeUK Equity Income19236.1%11.7%5.8%
Dunedin Income GrowthUK Equity Income18736.3%10.7%5.3%
EdinburghUK Equity Income18896.1%13.8%2.5%
Henderson Smaller CompaniesUK Smaller Companies18879.2%19.5%-5.3%
FTSE All-Share (index)
UK19626.4%9.5%4.5% *
Shires IncomeUK Equity Income19296.4%13.7%-0.4%
abrdn Diversified I&GFlexible Investment18981.1%8.8%3.1%
Baillie Gifford China GrowthChina / Greater China19072.3%13.5%-3.6%
JPMorgan JapaneseJapan19279.0%7.6%-5.5%

* 3i and index data annualised from January 1994 and January 1995 respectively as in the first table

There is a much wider variation in percentages here with a number of individual trusts making negative returns over the whole decade from 1993 to 2003. Unsurprisingly, there are mostly the ones with the poorest 30-year records even though their returns in the last 20 years have been a lot more impressive.

Hansa’s fall from grace is probably the one that sticks out the most for me and the variation in returns between decades of the three smaller company trusts (two UK and one more global) is a useful reminder of how volatile these can be — not that I need reminding at this precise moment in time! I was also a little surprised by how volatile Murray International’s returns have been, too, although that’s partly due to an exceptional period after Bruce Stout took charge in 2004.

One final thing worth noting is that most of these trusts beat both the All-Share and World indices in the first two decades. But the World index has proved to be a far more considerable adversary over the last ten years.



Please note that I may own some of the investments mentioned above -- you can see my current holdings on my portfolio page.

Nothing on this website should be regarded as a buy or sell recommendation as I'm just a random person writing a blog in his spare time and I am not authorised to give financial advice. Always do your own research and seek financial advice if necessary!

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6 Replies to “Returns From The Oldest Trusts – Revisited”

  1. Thank you for this information. As an Index fund investor, but with shares in SMT, I am considering taking advantage of some of the current discounts to NAVS, but over the long term, do ITs really outperform Index funds and thus justify the pricier fees? I am relatively new to investing so please forgive my lack of knowledge.

  2. Hi Simon, an excellent question that’s difficult to answer unfortunately. I think it’s fair to say that some trusts can outperform specific index funds but it’s certainly not guaranteed and almost impossible to know which ones will in advance. I believe we can tilt the odds in our favour by looking at how they have performed in the past, and whether the same processes are still in place and look valid, and overall how credible their managers appear. But at the end of the day, it’s a judgement call.

    Concentrated portfolios should give a better chance of both outperforming and underperforming by a wider margin, as does buying a trust that is more highly geared. Lower costs also help and some of the larger trusts like SMT aren’t that much more expensive than global trackers. I’d also say that there are some more specialised areas of the market, such as UK smaller companies, that are less well-researched and where there is lower liquidity and where trusts as a group seem to perform a little better against their benchmarks. There are also areas like infrastructure and private equity where it is harder to buy an index fund equivalent.

    Buying on a big discount, like SMT at around 20%, can also help assuming of course the discount does narrow significantly over your period of ownership. SMT is currently on a larger discount that it was during the financial crisis and the initial COVID lockdown, which I’d say suggests it’s much more likely to recover than not. But it’s going to be a volatile ride given the strategy the trust prefers.

  3. Agree that trackers hold up reasonably well. I’ve combined these with a few trusts that are on unusually large discounts (eg SMT – which appears to be still in freefall. I just hope it comes back in favour, although it may take a few years). I think that will lead to some alpha in due course.

  4. Is there any way for me to get hold of the 30 year performance data that you use to create these excellent articles? I would be particularly interested in data covering ITs that you haven’t included in your articles already.

  5. Hi Simon,

    These numbers came from an AIC press release, which you can find at They only release these sort of figures now and again though.

    As far as I know, the best way to get this data otherwise is to manually go into the performance charts on the AIC site and amend the date range to get the time period you want e.g.

    The AIC data comes from Morningstar and seems to go back to January 1970, assuming the trust’s launch date wasn’t later than that of course. NAV total return data only seems to go back to the middle of 2008. You can add several tickers to a single chart rather than doing a new chart for each trust but, even so, it is a bit fiddly. I then use the power function on a spreadsheet to calculate an annualised return figure as I find this a better way of comparing one trust against another.

    Trustnet’s charting tool at is another useful resource but it only goes back to January 1995 and it only shows the precise total return data from that date (and over the usual latest 1, 3, 5 and 10 year periods). You can choose a later start date you then have the estimate the actual total return figure just by looking at the chart.

    Yahoo Finance does some decent historical data as well but I haven’t used that for trusts. It uses an adjusted closing price to reflect past dividends so you can calculate a total return figure using two dates. This has the option to export the data into a CSV file.

    Hope that’s useful. I’m sure there are other free resources available as well but I haven’t checked around for other sites recently.


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