Amid the Covid-fueled recession and Brexit-run pariah status, global investors have been rewarding British stocks in recent years. 21st century consultants and their clients have less support than previous generations. But don’t despair – there may be other ways to get the most out of your UK stock investment.
In September 1997, my 20th birthday in the industry represented a career that had a total return on the FTSE All Stocks Index of nearly 2,900 percent – a combined 18 percent per year. At that time, the typical stock bias for multi-asset funds versus the UK was more than 50%, even though the UK accounted for less than 12% of world market capitalization. Figures with an annual return of 10% and 12% are standard and considered conservative as the “long-term” market continues to rise and previous presentations are investment marketing’s best friends.
Consultants and fund managers with pure 21st century market experience will build their careers on the well-being of the past few decades. Unfortunately, the experience that followed was a little more brilliant and this generation has a different approach from the “normal”. In particular, beta waves, seen as active governance over the past few decades, have receded – successful active governance is generally expensive, but rare for individuals.
Currently, beta versions are cheap, if not always fun. In terms of capital, the FTSE All-Share index has returned to near zero for the past 20 years until 1 September 2020.
For reinvested income, the annual return is 3.5%; At first glance, the investor’s returns can come almost entirely from reinvesting dividends.
However, a breakdown of all stocks by size shows that the top 100 companies have lost around 13% of investors over the past 20 years before dividends, while in stark contrast to the next biggest 250 companies, they are up nearly 150% and another 300 smaller companies. Company almost 50%.
The additional dividend contribution in all these sectors is around 3%. This underscores the diversification error that occurs when the FTSE All-Share Index is assumed to accurately reflect the diversity of UK companies. As measured by market capitalization, long-term exposure to this index is a big bet for the 100 largest companies that make up two-thirds of the all-stock index weighted 641 components of the FTSE, 98% of the total market capitalization of the 2,000 listed companies.
Buying an all-share tracker is similar to eggs and baskets. Active managers have used this weighted return difference to assure us that stock picks will benefit from this effect. The average total returns of all UK companies and indices of all stocks have been nearly identical over the past 20 years. Herd activities are clearly grouped according to standards and therefore according to the larger company.
Small company effect
Conversely, some managers will exhibit a “small business effect” because the logic is that small firms have greater growth potential and must therefore outperform their larger counterparts in the long run.
The 300 or so small companies on this All-Share Index may have done so, but unfortunately there is no way to effectively access these companies via passive vehicles – even the iShares MSCI UK Small Cap ETF owns six FTSE 100 shares in the top 10 companies.
Over the past 20 years, the average active small-cap manager has returned twice the FTSE Small Cap Index returns and one and a half times the wider Small Cap Numis plus the AIM Index.
I can’t find a retail vehicle that offers passive exposure to the FTSE All-Share Index of the same weight. In the absence of a UK Small Business Tracking Fund, one solution to the problem of diversifying the UK equity market may be to invest proportionately through joint membership in the all-stock index of 641 companies. For example 16% (100/641) in the FTSE 100 tracker, 39% in the FTSE 250 tracker and the balance sheet in a fund that is well diversified, actively managed, even though it is medium in size, and is small in scale. Our 20 year yield will be nearly double the total return on the All Stocks Index with less annual volatility.
We all know the principle of diversification in asset allocation. We should understand no less about style.