Scotland business

Alliance Trust seeks to recruit women after board shake-up

Alliance Trust Dundee Image copyright Google

Alliance Trust, the Dundee fund management firm, wants to recruit women to the board, after three women were ousted from it.

Lord Smith of Kelvin, who recently joined as chairman, said he was aware of the need to recruit women to the seven-man board.

The firm has a strong track record of women in charge.

However, it has been the subject of a fierce battle between managers and activist shareholders.

The whole board will have been replaced in the space of 18 months, and no women are left on it.

Half of the workforce of 311 is female, but among the top 61 managers, only 25% are women.

Attracting investors

Katherine Garrett-Cox, the chief executive, was removed from the board last October, and is leaving Alliance Trust next week.

Unusually for a listed company reporting on its full-year results, there was no commentary from the chief executive.

Also ousted from the group board was Susan Noble, who remains in the chair at a subsidiary, Alliance Trust Investments.

Karin Forseke stepped down as chairwoman in November, as the boardroom turmoil worsened and the previous business strategy was replaced.

The company had been taking a longer-term approach to results, with more emphasis on attracting investors with an interest in backing companies with strong social and environmental credentials as well as good governance.

Ms Forseke's predecessor was also female. Lesley Knox stepped down in 2012, and last year backed the women in charge in their battle with hedge fund Elliott Advisers.

Commenting on the results for 2015, Lord Smith of Kelvin said: "I am acutely aware of the lack of gender diversity on the current board as a result of the recent changes.

"Alliance Trust has long been a leader in the area of board diversity, and this is an issue which I am determined to address at the earliest opportunity."

The full year results for 2015 reflect some of that change, and the costs of it.

The discount, or gap between Alliance Trust's market value and the valuation of its portfolio of assets, was strongly criticised for being too large. It has been cut from 12% to 8% during the past year.

Dividend increase

Assets under management at the Alliance Trust subsidiary are now around £5bn, including a net inflow of funds during last year.

Third party assets under management - which Alliance Trust has attracted from outside its own investor base - reached £2.1bn by the end of December.

Total revenue at the Tayside firm fell from £274m to £200m. Pre-tax profit declined from £229m to £145m.

While administrative costs rose from £35m to £45m, there is a target of cutting £6m from costs at the investment business during this year.

The dividend for Alliance Trust investors is being increased for the 49th consecutive year. That makes it one of only four companies on the FTSE all share index that can claim to have such a consistent record.

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