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Asante tops table of Scots asset managers

EDINBURGH-based emerging markets expert Jonathan Asante of First State Investments has topped The Herald's table of the top-performing asset managers working for Scottish fund houses.

Jonathan Asante: Renowned for cautious approach to investing.
Jonathan Asante: Renowned for cautious approach to investing.

Mr Asante's rise to the top comes eight years after his decision to move from the London office of fund manager Framlington to take an ostensibly more junior post in Scotland at First State caught the industry by surprise.

He runs First State's Global Emerging Markets Leaders, Global Emerging Markets, and First State Latin America funds.

When the latest performance figures for the three years to the end of November were compiled by financial publisher Citywire, Mr Asante leapt from sixth to first place in the Scottish rankings. His UK-wide standing improved from 51st to 24th.

Last month's leaders, Baillie Gifford's Japan duo Sarah Whitley and Matthew Brett, were pushed into second.

Mr Asante – who said he made the move to Scotland to learn from First State's legendary emerging markets manager, Angus Tulloch – is renowned for his cautious approach to investing.

He said: "We don't spend any time forecasting earnings growth at the market level as we mostly focus on looking at companies.

"We think many of the best quality companies will be able to find ways to grow earnings and cash flows ahead of the global economy in the next decade."

However, Mr Asante, who started his career as a teacher at the London School of Economics while doing postgraduate research before joining NatWest as a researcher, pays great attention to emerging patterns in the global economy.

"Many of the best companies, whether global multinationals or run by local entrepreneurs, try to identify and attempt to benefit from some long-term themes – the rise of credit, for example, in under-banked countries such as the Philippines and Mexico; the rise (from very low levels) in consumer demand in some of the poorest regions for example in some African economies or in rural India; or the improvement in local food supply safety in China," he said.

"These offer genuine opportunities for growth (as well as posing risks) for companies in the long term."

He said his portfolios were biased heavily towards domestic, consumer-related companies to benefit from rising disposable income and growing middle class in many emerging markets.

"We are increasingly defensively positioned, focusing on companies with strong cash flow and pricing power," he said.

Mr Asante came to prominence while he was a fund manager and group economist at Framlington, which he joined in 1995.

In 2004 he switched to First State as a senior analyst and became head of global emerging market equities after several years of co-managing portfolios with Mr Tulloch.

The Herald-Citywire survey focuses on open-ended funds aimed at retail investors, and ranks the performance of those working for investment houses which have a significant presence in Scotland.

Fewer than one-fifth of fund managers in the UK qualify for one of the 329 Citywire ratings.

Rankings are based on three-year, risk-adjusted performance set against relevant benchmarks.

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