Kate Rogers: What my birthday taught me about long-term investment

Rather than investing in the largest companies of yesteryear, we can look forward and find the opportunities for tomorrow

Kate Rogers
Kate Rogers

It was my 40th birthday this month. I have to say I’m embracing getting older, but it seems to be affecting the men in my life: my husband says wistfully "but I met you when you were 26", and my dad can’t believe he’s old enough to have a 40-year-old daughter. Oh well. I read that we reach peak happiness in our 60s, so I’ve a fair way to go yet.

My fantastic colleague gave me an original Financial Times from the date of my birth. I had a wonderful train ride home reading the musty pages and thinking how different things are. Hardly anyone on my commute has actual hard-copy newspapers now. I remember first starting work and spending many months practising origami in order to read my FT on the tube. Oh how times have changed.

But that’s not all that’s different. I was interested to find an advert for a "striptease floorshow" in the classified section and a regular column called "Men and Matters" with the interesting headline "Queering a Sussex pitch". Thank goodness times have moved on and there have been great strides in promoting equality in the financial industry – with much more to be done of course.

On the date of my birth in 1979, the UK stock market index was the "FT Ordinary". The FTSE 100 didn’t exist until five years later, launched at a value of 1,000. The largest 100 UK listed companies all had market capitalisations of above £100m. That figure is now more than £4bn. It’s amazing to see how the index has changed over the years: it boasts a surprising number of survivors, with nearly a third of the companies the same as at launch: M&S, Tesco, Shell and Unilever are all long-term stalwarts of the UK equity market. But some household names have disappeared, largely through acquisitions: Rowntree was bought by Nestlé in the late 1980s; BHS was taken private; and P&O, Boots and Cadbury’s were all sold in the early 2000s.

We often hear that corporate behaviour is too short term, so I find it reassuring that we can see such a list of UK companies surviving through decades. But I am also pleased to see the new entrants, the innovators, the shifts in industry that provide exciting investment opportunities. Being a long-term investor doesn’t mean that we just sit at the sidelines as these changes evolve, but that we can take a long-term perspective when investing. Rather than owning the largest companies of yesteryear, we can look forward and find the opportunities for tomorrow. Embracing change is certainly my approach for the next decade.

Kate Rogers is head of policy at Cazenove Charities

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