Forget the City, head north for best investment returns

FORGET The financial fortress of London, anyone looking for Britain’s best stock-picker this year should have hopped on a train north.

Keith Ashworth-Lord of Sandford DeLand
Keith Ashworth-Lord of Sandford DeLand

Based out of a nondescript office block in Manchester, Keith Ashworth-Lord’s £28m fund is tiny compared with many peers in Britain’s £6.6 trillion investment industry.

As suggested by the name of his fund - Sanford DeLand UK Buffettology - Mr Ashworth-Lord seeks to emulate the investment style of Warren Buffett, the world-famous US investor known as the Sage of Omaha.

His returns of 25.3 per cent to December 22 far outstrip a 6 per cent fall in the blue-chip FTSE 100, according to industry data firm Financial Express.

That is about two percentage points ahead of the next best-performing fund, according to the data that covers the 262 funds in the industry’s “UK All Companies” sector, comprising those that invest at least 80 per cent of their assets in British shares.

Mr Ashworth-Lord’s returns also top the performance of Buffett’s own Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle, which is down 11.7 percent in the same period.

The trademarked “Buffettology” method - laid down in a series of books - is not backed by Buffett himself. It was formulated by his former daughter-in-law, Mary, and David Clarke, a member of the Buffettologists - a group of early Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who studied his strategy.

Mr Ashworth-Lord’s fascination with the famed US investor stretches back to the mid 1990s, when he made several trips to the Berkshire Hathaway annual conference in Omaha, Nebraska – on one occasion being granted a private audience with the man himself after being mistaken for a journalist.

The Buffettology method broadly involves buying into companies with strong market positions, growth potential, management teams and cash generation.

“I have always preferred to work away from the rumour mill,” said the fund manager, who has lived in Manchester for most his life.