Shift: Ben Peters is lead manager on the new fund
Asset manager Evenlode has come a long way since it was launched nearly nine years ago from offices in leafy Oxfordshire. It has grown funds under management to £2.5 billion and continues to invest in its team with the recent recruitment of two analysts.
Indeed, its rapid success has been such that it has had to deter new investors from buying its flagship fund, Evenlode Income, through the introduction of an initial charge. It is worried that if the fund gets any bigger, it will not be able to manage it as effectively, endangering performance.
In order to build on its reputation for generating income from equities, Evenlode has also begun to diversify. Its second fund, Evenlode Global Income, was launched last November and has already amassed assets in excess of £100 million. Lead manager on the fund is Ben Peters, co-founder of the Evenlode business along with brother-in-law Hugh Yarrow, a former fund manager with Rathbones.
Peters, a physicist by training and who cycles into work every day, says the launch of the global fund was a natural progression for the company to take. He says: ‘We always have some overseas holdings in the Income fund so it was logical for us to extend our research into global equity income and launch a new fund.’
The result is a fund where the emphasis is very much on delivering investors dividend growth above inflation. It does this by investing in a concentrated portfolio of 40 companies with the emphasis on identifying those which are in dominant market positions.
It seeks those generating lots of cash to feed through into dividends and where new competitors find it hard to break into the market. Currently, some 20 per cent of the fund is invested in UK equities.
Evenlode is one of three financial businesses that are run out of Chipping Norton by The Oak Investment Partnership. Above, the town hall in Chipping Norton
The fund’s biggest holdings include many of the world’s most dividend-friendly companies such as drinks manufacturer Diageo and US conglomerate Procter & Gamble – owner of leading world brands such as Gillette and Head & Shoulders and a company that has increased its dividend for 62 consecutive years.
Alongside these dividend ‘bankers’ are holdings in less familiar businesses such as Dutch digital company Wolters Kluwer and Australian medical giant Sonic Healthcare.
Chris Elliott, who assists Peters on the fund, says: ‘Sonic Healthcare has a number of joint ventures in the UK, working with hospitals University College London and Royal Free London. It carries out diagnostic testing and wherever it operates in the world it is renowned for its focus on clinical excellence. It also pays a healthy dividend.’
Peters says opportunities to make money in today’s stock markets are harder than they were back in 2009 when Evenlode was launched. This is because valuations have increased at a greater pace than the fundamentals that underpin many listed companies.
As for dividends, the first quarterly payment for the fund’s current financial year will be made at the end of next month. This will be 0.64 pence per share.
Evenlode is one of three financial businesses that are run out of Chipping Norton by The Oak Investment Partnership, which is owned by the 48 employees spread across the three businesses.
Peters believes running an investment company out of Oxfordshire works well. He says: ‘It is a beautiful place to live and work. It also allows you to generate an independence of thought detached from the whirl of the City.’