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BLOG: Five hidden gems for this year’s investment ISA

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

With the deadline to invest this year’s Individual Savings Account allocation fast approaching, the pressure is on to find some interesting additions to your portfolio.

But instead of going for the most popular or well-known options, maybe consider something a little different this year?

There are plenty of hidden gems run by experienced managers that often fly under most investors’ radars for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be operating in relatively niche areas – such as the world of smaller companies – that tend to get ignored by stock market analysts.

In other cases, the fund houses promoting the portfolios may be boutique operations, with far less promotional resources at their disposal than better-financed rivals.

So, where should you start? I’ve come up with five lesser-known funds that could be worth considering if you’re after some last-minute ISA inspiration.

1) Liontrust UK Micro Cap fund

This fund operates in the aforementioned smaller companies area that is often under-researched.

Exciting, fast-growing smaller businesses usually find themselves being overlooked in favour of the more established, large-cap, global multinational stocks. However, the hope is they can surprise on the upside. You just never know. Today’s tiny outfit with half a dozen employees could well end up being the Apple or Amazon of the future.

Most of the companies in this fund hail from the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), which is home to a wide variety of entrepreneurial businesses that are not yet household names.

For example, one of its largest holdings is currently in Eckoh, which provides secure payment solutions for clients such as contact centres.

One of the aspects we like about the fund’s approach is that companies must have a minimum 3% equity ownership by their senior management. This obviously improves the chances of executives being motivated to perform because their financial fortunes are more closely aligned with their investors.

2) Baillie Gifford Japanese fund

This is one of the longest established Japan funds in the sector and focuses on businesses that deliver consistently strong returns to investors.

Japan is also regularly overlooked. In fact, UK investors currently have just £22bn invested in the IA Japan sector, compared to £162.7bn in IA Global and £151.7bn in IA UK All Companies. However, it’s fair to say they could be missing a trick as the country is home to many global giants and has benefitted from a wave of corporate reforms in recent years.

The Baillie Gifford Japanese fund, which is managed by Matthew Brett, invests in well-managed businesses, with strong competitive advantages, that aren’t overpriced. Tech giant Sony and Nintendo, the video game manufacturer, are among the portfolio’s 10 largest holdings. Both are well established names with a truly international customer base.

3) GAM Star Disruptive Growth fund

Sticking with the technology theme for my next suggestion, as its name suggests, GAM looks for companies in industries expected to benefit from the disruption caused by future waves of technological advancements.

Unsurprisingly, the portfolio’s biggest names will be very familiar. They include Microsoft, Netflix, NVIDIA, and Seagate Technology Holdings. All of these businesses are firmly entrenched in the development of technologies that help a wide variety of industries to perform. While none of us have crystal balls, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which tech won’t be a major driving force, so this fund is very much one for the future.

4) LF Lightman European

Now, Lightman is a relatively new asset management company that was only founded in 2019. However, the fund’s manager is the highly experienced Rob Burnett, who forged his reputation at Neptune, where he spent most of his career.

The portfolio’s focus is contrarian and relies on a process built on years of academic research that shows value has historically outperformed growth over the longer-term. It’s also pretty concentrated, with just 40-50 holdings. These include Dutch bank ABN Amro and Rio Tinto, the global mining group.  Of course, its style bias means the fund could pivot between the top and bottom of the performance tables, depending on the overall backdrop.

5) Cohen & Steers Diversified Real Assets

My final suggestion is another fund that’s a relative newcomer to the UK market. The selling point of this fund is that it taps into the company’s broad expertise to provide a seductive combination of attractive returns and solid inflation protection.

The investment process starts with an asset allocation model that helps decide where it should be underweight and overweight on a six- to 12-month investment horizon. Many factors and sectors that can influence markets are considered, including real estate, gold and other precious metals, natural resources, and infrastructure.

Its approach and diversified nature should offer investors a different return profile which could be particularly attractive in the current tough inflationary environment.

Darius McDermott is managing director of Chelsea Financial Services & FundCalibre