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Alpha Female focus: 'Diversity of thought in all its forms is what matters'

Alpha Female focus: 'Diversity of thought in all its forms is what matters'

‘I think it is not necessarily male or female that make that difference, it is diversity of thought in all its forms,’ points out Victoria Stevens from Liontrust Asset Management.

AAA-rated Stevens (pictured) is a member of Liontrust’s Economic Advantage team, working alongside Anthony Cross, Julian Fosh and Matt Tonge.

She has been on the team since 2015 and focuses on the small cap universe as co-manager of the UK Micro Cap and UK Smaller Companies funds.

As part of a top performing mixed team she says that the four ‘work well together, within an investment framework that allows us to debate back and forth in a way that is always constructive’.

She says that everyone has a clear responsibility split across the market cap spectrum and across different funds.

‘Julian is our large cap specialist. He has primary responsibility for large and mid cap stocks. Anthony will cover the upper end of small cap will have very much an active role looking into the large and mid caps as well. He oversees Matthew and I on the remainder of the small cap list.’

She says that before she joined, Fosh and Cross were looking to expand the team to keep up with the growing size of the funds, especially get more resource in to look at the smaller end of the market which takes 'quite a bit of time'.

‘My experience was on the small cap side of things. As we progress, work more with the team, we are looking to expand our knowledge as well.

‘We are quite lucky because Matt and myself, we had a specific distinct investment process the team follows, that’s really helpful to a newer fund manager, it gives a great framework where you can make a decision. You’re not let loose on an entire market.’

She adds that they do not tend to invest in a stock unless everyone agrees on it.

While admitting that there are differences between how she approaches certain investments and how Cross and Tonge approach them, she says it is more to do with diversity of thought rather than just gender differences.

‘I think diversity in all guises needs to be celebrated and it’s certainly helpful to an investment team.'

The fund

Stevens spends a lot of her time on the Liontrust UK Smaller Companies fund, which has returned 73.7% over three years, compared to a sector average of 49.8%

She names three stocks that have helped drive performance over that period:

Learning Technologies: ‘This is a fast-growing consolidator in the e-learning space, which has been busy buying and integrating businesses to be able to offer an integrated set of solutions across the e-learning space – from learning content in various guises to the underlying delivery platform and human capital management software solutions.’

Craneware: ‘A provider of software-as-a-service solutions to the US healthcare market helping hospitals manage the complex Stateside pricing and billing environment. It has very high contracted recurring revenues, is growing organically at a mid-teens percentage rate, and enjoys significant market share in its target market (25% of all US hospitals). It has had another strong year with upgrades coming through in the numbers.’

Keywords Studios: ‘Another consolidation play this time in the outsourced video games services market – it provides services like functional testing, localisation and art creation to the world’s biggest games developers. It too has had another strong year with several upgrades to numbers.’

Although the fund has outperformed many of its peers over the long term there have been a number of companies that have been at the bottom of the pile as well, just like any other fund.

Stevens highlights three in particular: Animalcare, System1 and Idox.

‘Animalcare, a provider of veterinary pharmaceutical products, suffered after a reverse takeover last year to acquire European animal healthcare company Ecuphar. Pressure on gross margins caused the company to lower FY18 profit guidance earlier this year and spooked the market.

‘System1 is a marketing services company which suffered from budget pressures at its large customers over the past year, and has since been sold from the portfolio.

‘Idox released a profit warning after it uncovered accounting misstatements in the accounts of a recently-acquired Maltese business. The fund was in the process of selling the shares due to the board directors’ equity ownership falling below our requisite 3%, but unfortunately still held a position at the time of the warning. It has since sold the position.’

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Related Fund Managers

Matthew Tonge
Matthew Tonge
11/53 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 51.72%
Anthony Cross
Anthony Cross
9/53 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 51.72%
Julian Fosh
Julian Fosh
8/53 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 51.72%
Victoria Stevens
Victoria Stevens
10/53 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 51.72%
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