The investment indus try calls him a star fund manager but stockpicking
guru Bill Mott talks about himself in far more disparaging terms.
In his late 40s, he descri bes himself as a “geriatric” fund manager in a
game played mostly by the younger generation. Such modesty seem typical of
Mott, who advises other fund managers never to believe they can walk on
“Make your own views, ignore current market trends and keep a cool head,”
It is this philosophy which is behind his current bias towards “old
economy” stocks. He believes income funds investing in brewers, chemicals,
builders and utilities will be among this year's winners as they are “too
cheap and undervalued”.
Mott reckons technology stocks are collectively valued too highly although
there are some winners. But he believes the bulk of them are very close to
crashing as they are at unsustainable levels, fuelled partly by investors
seeking instant gratification.
“Stockmarket investing is rapidly becoming a middleclass pursuit with
people taking it up as a weekend hobby. But they are like Tom & Jerry
running off a cliff and are not looking down.”
Mott's no-punches-pulled style has brought him far. He was born in 1951
within the sound of Bow bells. He is proud to be a Cockney but has since
decamped to Hornchurch, Essex, in common with many from the East End.
After grammar school, he studied physics which culminated in him gaining a
PhD in quantum physics from King's College, London. Science is still a
passion and something that he would have pursued longer if he had three or
four lives to lead.
The move from academia to fund management in 1977 was prompted by the most
pragmatic (or “mercenary”, as Mott says) of reasons – money.
“I was as poor as a church mouse and about to get married to a district
nurse who was also as poor as a church mouse.”
He and his wife Melanie now have two grown-up daughters, Cristina and Laura.
After stints at NatWest and Chase Manhattan, he joined Buckmaster & Moore,
which was eventually taken over by Credit Suisse Asset Management, as
investment assistant. He became a partner in 1982.
He managed the unit trust range between 1986 and 1996 and has just
announced that he will be returning to the day-to-day running of the funds
following the departure of Dominic Wellington for a position at Invesco.
He now has two roles as he is carrying on as head of the UK fund
management team, a post he took up last October after taking a break during
the summer to have an operation from which he has now fully recovered.
It may sound like an exciting line of work but he describes his typical
day as “screen watching interspersed by meetings”.
How has he lasted so long in a sector in which, by his own admission,
someone is only as good as their last performance?
The need for independence is something he stresses time and time again
when asked about the recipe for success.
He says his age has both pros and cons, the main plus being experience and
the big minus being less energy. “If I live to be 100, then I will be a
good fund manager,” he says.
Mott says he wants to demonstrate over the next couple of years that his
style works and that he is not past his sell-by date through the
performance of the two funds under his management – Credit Suisse income
and monthly income portfolio.
He already has a vote of confidence from his boss, Credit Suisse managing
director Ian Chimes, who says: “He knows the real difference in value and
he knows the funds backwards. These two funds were flagship funds until a
couple of years ago.”
Leading investment IFAs say Mott is a one-off and believe he is the ideal
man to take advantage of the recent fall in traditional stocks. He is not
afraid to make the big calls and does not pull any punches.
Hargreaves Lansdown head of research Mark Dampier says: “He called the
markets correct in 1988 when everyone was sticking with the blue-chips but
he was advocating small-cap valuations. You cannot help thinking the
technology story is going the same way and he is calling the old economy
stocks at a time when everyone is looking at tech.”
Despite this brazen image, Mott's modesty rears its head again when asked
about his greatest achievement.
Instead, he comes up with his “biggest failure” first – the fact that he
did not foresee the extent of the boom in technology stocks.
He then cites his greatest achievement as forecasting the end of the last
property boom. In common with the majority of his predictions that have
been spot-on, it attracted a lot of criticism for “going against market
sentiment and not being what people wan ted to hear”.
When Mott is not cutting a dash in the world of fund management, he is a
keen supporter of West Ham football club. He lists one of his ambitions as
seeing the team picking up a few points.
He says of being a Hammer: “I get a lot of sympathy in the City because
they know that I suffer in other areas of my life.”
He is also a keen gardener and the rest of his free time is spent “picking
up my daughters from discos at 1am”.