Interactive Investor

Ian Cowie: the investment trusts in ISA millionaire club

16th March 2023 10:00

by Ian Cowie from interactive investor

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Twenty-eight investment trusts would have made investors an ISA millionaire – provided the full allowance was used each year since 1999. Our columnist looks at key themes within the data, and runs through the four trusts in the top 12 performers that he owns. 

Ian Cowie 600

No fewer than 28 investment trusts would have made you a millionaire, if you had put your full individual savings account (ISA) annual allowance into them every year since ISAs were launched in 1999.

Better still, your humble correspondent is currently a happy shareholder in four of the top dozen investment trusts that each delivered seven-figure total returns to regular ISA investors.

Sad to say, I did not pop the full whack into any of them but I really mustn’t grumble as two went on to win a place in my top 10 shareholdings by value - and one of them is still up there.

More importantly, the new analysis of data from independent statisticians Morningstar shows how regular investment has paid off during the last quarter century - despite dramatic stock market shocks that began with the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2000, including the global financial crisis in 2008 - and that continue to this day with Covid and Europe’s worst war since 1945.

So, without further ado, let’s focus on the ‘fabulous five’ top-performing trusts that each turned total ISA investments of £286,560 since 1999 into £1.4 million or more by the end of last month. They are HgCapital Trust (LSE:HGT); Pacific Horizon (LSE:PHI); Scottish Mortgage (LSE:SMT); Allianz Technology (LSE:ATT) and abrdn Asia Focus (LSE:AAS).

Technology is a strong theme among the ‘fabulous five’. For example, HGT, which invests in unquoted software and digital hardware businesses, returned £1,842,880. Similarly, PHI and SMT both have heavy allocations to Asian technology and returned £1,485,165 and £1,480,188 respectively.

Meanwhile, the self-descriptive ATT generated £1,454,871 and AAS, which invests in smaller quoted companies in Asian economies excluding Japan, returned £1,435,986.

Digital commerce also delivered my first winner among these top-performing investment trusts with Polar Capital Technology (LSE:PCT), which came seventh with a total return of £1,363,504. I have been a PCT shareholder, albeit in a smaller way, for more than a decade and it ranked among my top 10 shareholdings by value until recently.

Like ATT, PCT is having a tough time at present - both have shrunk over the last year, by 17% and 13% respectively. But I believe its top holdings - which are led by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) - continue to generate enormous revenues and profits, which will restore the shares to growth eventually.

My second winner is International Biotechnology (LSE:IBT), which came 10th among the ISA millionaire investment trusts with a total return of £1,174,573. IBT is topical because its biggest underlying holding, the cancer specialist Seagen (NASDAQ:SGEN), received an agreed $43 billion takeover bid from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) this week at a 33% premium to SGEN’s price earlier last week.

No wonder optimists argue that there might well be further mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the ‘Biotechnology and Healthcare’ sector. Other cash-rich giants could reinvest some of their Covid-19 vaccine revenues to buy smaller rivals and rebuild their drugs pipelines, especially as older treatments fall out of patent protection.

In the same sector, Worldwide Healthcare (LSE:WWH) is my third winner among the ISA millionaires and my ninth-most valuable asset now, where - like PCT - I have been a shareholder for more than a decade. Anyone wise enough to invest the full annual allowance since 1999 in WWH would now own shares worth £1,167,226. Underlying holdings include big pharma blue-chips such as AstraZeneca (LSE:AZN), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), and Sanofi (EURONEXT:SAN).

JPMorgan US Smaller Companies (LSE:JUSC) is my fourth winner among the top 12 ISA millionaire investment trusts, having turned the full annual allowances into a total of £1,142,394 since the end of the last century. As you might expect, none of JUSC’s underlying assets is a name I recognise but that is no impediment to increasing this small investor’s modest portfolio.

Perhaps surprisingly, smaller companies delivered big returns to many shareholders over the long term. No fewer than 13 of the top-performing investment trusts - or nearly half the total of 28 ISA millionaire trusts - are focused on medium-sized businesses and corporate tiddlers.

So, in addition to diminishing risk by diversification, investment trusts can also help us maximise returns by gaining exposure to less well-known businesses, which have yet to become household names today but might create great wealth in future.

The 28 ISA millionaire investment companies


Company name

AIC sector

% share price total return, 06/04/1999 to 28/02/2023

Total ISA investment value at 28/02/2023


HgCapital Trust (LSE:HGT)

Private Equity




Pacific Horizon (LSE:PHI)

Asia Pacific




Scottish Mortgage (LSE:SMT)





Allianz Technology Trust (LSE:ATT)

Technology & Media




abrdn Asia Focus (LSE:AAS)

Asia Pacific Smaller Companies




Scottish Oriental Smaller Cos (LSE:SST)

Asia Pacific Smaller Companies




Polar Capital Technology (LSE:PCT)

Technology & Media




BlackRock World Mining Trust (LSE:BRWM)

Commodities & Natural Resources




BlackRock Throgmorton Trust (LSE:THRG)

UK Smaller Companies




International Biotechnology (LSE:IBT)

Biotechnology & Healthcare




Worldwide Healthcare (LSE:WWH)

Biotechnology & Healthcare




JPMorgan US Smaller Companies (LSE:JUSC)

North American Smaller Companies




Montanaro European Smaller (LSE:MTE)

European Smaller Companies




BlackRock Smaller Companies (LSE:BRSC)

UK Smaller Companies




Biotech Growth (LSE:BIOG)

Biotechnology & Healthcare




The European Smaller Companies (LSE:ESCT)

European Smaller Companies




JPMorgan American (LSE:JAM)

North America




Rights & Issues Investment Trust (LSE:RIII)

UK Smaller Companies




JPMorgan Global Growth & Income (LSE:JGGI)

Global Equity Income




Fidelity European Trust (LSE:FEV)





JPMorgan European Discovery (LSE:JEDT)

European Smaller Companies




Invesco Asia (LSE:IAT)

Asia Pacific Equity Income




Canadian General Investments (TSE:CGI)

North America




Herald (LSE:HRI)

Global Smaller Companies




JPMorgan UK Smaller Companies (LSE:JMI)

UK Smaller Companies




Fidelity Asian Values (LSE:FAS)

Asia Pacific Smaller Companies




Mid Wynd International (LSE:MWY)





Invesco Perpetual UK Smaller (LSE:IPU)

UK Smaller Companies



Source: Association of Investment Companies.

Ian Cowie is a freelance contributor and not a direct employee of interactive investor.

Ian Cowie is a shareholder in Apple (AAPL), International Biotechnology (IBT), JPMorgan US Smaller Companies (JUSC), Microsoft (MSFT), Polar Capital Technology (PCT), Worldwide Healthcare (WWH), and Canadian General Investments (CGI) as part of a globally diversified portfolio of investment trusts and other shares.

These articles are provided for information purposes only.  Occasionally, an opinion about whether to buy or sell a specific investment may be provided by third parties.  The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any financial instrument or product, or to adopt any investment strategy as it is not provided based on an assessment of your investing knowledge and experience, your financial situation or your investment objectives. The value of your investments, and the income derived from them, may go down as well as up. You may not get back all the money that you invest. The investments referred to in this article may not be suitable for all investors, and if in doubt, an investor should seek advice from a qualified investment adviser.

Full performance can be found on the company or index summary page on the interactive investor website. Simply click on the company's or index name highlighted in the article.

Please remember, investment value can go up or down and you could get back less than you invest. If you’re in any doubt about the suitability of a stocks & shares ISA, you should seek independent financial advice. The tax treatment of this product depends on your individual circumstances and may change in future. If you are uncertain about the tax treatment of the product you should contact HMRC or seek independent tax advice.

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