Job Curtis: the world’s greatest investors

Job Curtis has described himself as a pragmatic value investor, only willing to buy shares that are undervalued in relation to their expected future earnings.


Pragmatic investor Job Curtis

Job Curtis was born in 1961 and went on to do a degree in PPE at Oxford. After his graduation he joined stockbroker Grierson Grant as a graduate trainee, which included a brief stint on the floor of the stock exchange as a stockjobber (a role which was abolished in 1986 as part of the Big Bang reforms). In 1985 he moved to Cornhill Insurance as an assistant fund manager before leaving for a position at Touche Remnant. In 1991, shortly before Touche was taken over by Henderson, he was appointed the lead manager of the City of London investment trust, a role that he continues to hold.

What is his strategy?

Curtis has described himself as a "pragmatic value investor". This means that he is only willing to buy shares that he thinks are undervalued in relation to their expected future earnings. He buys unfashionable companies at a bargain price, but his preference is for companies that offer above-average dividends, and that are able to grow these dividends (though he avoids companies that have very high yields). His aim is to keep increasing the dividend that the trust pays out each year.

Has it worked?

Over the past 26 years, £10,000 invested in the City of London Trust would now be worth £77,326, an annual return of 9.23%. A comparable investment in the FTSE 100 would be worth only £53,495. So Curtis has beaten the market by around 1.2% a year. As a result the City of London Trust now has net assets of £1.35bn. Curtis has also preserved the Trust's record of increasing its dividend over 50 consecutive years.

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What have been his biggest successes?

Curtis credits his success with large investments in British American Tobacco and drinks company Diageo. These continue to play an important role and are the largest and fifth-largest holdings respectively. Over the past ten years Diageo has more than doubled in price, returning 11.1% a year when dividends are included. BAT has done even better with the price tripling, for an average return of 17.2% a year. In contrast, the FTSE has risen by less than 20% and returned 5.3% a year.

What lessons are there for investors?

Curtis's success shows the value of a consistent and patient approach. It also demonstrates that strictly controlling costs increases your chances of beating the market. His trust has an average management fee of only 0.35% a year. The fund's total ongoing charge is just 0.42%, vastly lower than the industry's average charge.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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