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Thinking differently

May 2024

Categories: DIY Magazine







Financial markets can be inefficient in the short term, driving share prices away from their true fundamental value. This can create interesting long-term opportunities for disciplined “value” investors that are prepared to challenge consensus beliefs. Here, we take a look at The Merchants Trust, which is managed by Simon Gergel who has been successfully deploying such an approach for more than 30 years…




1. Markets are inefficient in the short term but tend to find true fundamental value in the end - this can create opportunities for disciplined investors.

2. Simon Gergel, manager of The Merchants Trust, looks to capture these opportunities by finding good quality businesses and investing in the when they are out of favour.

3. This requires a rigorous approach and an independent mindset, but it does ultimately provide the opportunity for investors to enjoy good long-term returns.


“In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

This timeless quote from Ben Graham, one of the greatest investors of the 20th century, captures the essence of value investing, a strategy that rationally questions prevailing market sentiment.

The quote implies that the influence of emotion can make financial markets inefficient in the short term, driving share prices away from their true fundamental value1.

By maintaining a disciplined, independent mindset and challenging consensus beliefs, the value investor can take a contrarian view to identify situations where share prices have become detached from fundamentals and invest in undervalued assets that have the potential to shine brightly in the long run.

Simon Gergel, portfolio manager of The Merchants Trust, has been successfully deploying a value investment approach for more than 30 years. His aim is to identify good quality businesses and invest in them when they are out of favour.

Their temporary lack of popularity tends to be reflected in lower share prices and valuations, as Simon explains:

“When there’s an issue affecting sentiment, it can provide a great opportunity to buy good companies cheaply. If investors are nervous about a business, industry, or even the economy more broadly, it will tend to mean lower share prices. As long as we can become confident the issues that are affecting
sentiment are temporary rather than permanent, this can represent a really attractive entry point.”


As Ben Graham’s quote suggests, successful value investing demands a long-term investment horizon.

The swings in sentiment that create short-term market inefficiencies should, ultimately, be replaced by a more appropriate assessment of intrinsic value as the market becomes an effective weighing machine over time. Indeed, swings in sentiment work in both directions, under-valuing businesses when they are out of favour, and over-valuing them when they are popular.

“The stock market tends to overvalue companies when they are doing well because their shares become very popular. There are all sorts of behavioural reasons why this is the case – the fear of missing out, the comfort of the crowd, or recency bias where investors anchor to recent information rather than a broader long-term context. We see these behavioural biases time and time again in markets, and it’s why we occasionally see asset price bubbles forming.”

“When there’s an issue affecting sentiment, it can provide a great opportunity to buy good companies cheaply. If investors are nervous about a business, industry, or even the economy more broadly, it will tend to mean lower share prices. As long as we can become confident the issues that are affecting sentiment are temporary rather than permanent, this can represent a really attractive entry point”

Simon Gergel, Portfoilo Manager


Value investors, by their very nature, have to be prepared to think differently to the consensus. This requires discipline and the ability to detach oneself from the emotions that can accompany investment decisions.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it can be a lonely pursuit, as Simon explains:

“I have to be prepared to be different and be prepared to stick with it. Buying shares when they are depressed or going down – and selling shares when they’re on the up – means generally heading in the opposite direction to the majority, so I have to be absolutely convinced that it’s the right thing to do.

This means a lot of work goes into every investment decision, to build conviction in an investment case that challenges the consensus.”


In the wake of a number of challenges to the UK stock market in recent years, Merchants’ Portfolio Manager Simon Gergel looks at how those challenges and headwinds look to be falling away and what that may mean for markets, particularly if one of the more recent headwinds, higher interest rates, do indeed start to



UK house builders are an example of where the team has been thinking differently recently. Share prices were generally weak for much of 2023, as the stock market worried about the impact of a potential recession and higher interest rates on the UK housing market.

Whilst this is understandable, value investors like Simon are prepared to take a longer-term view of the industry. In doing so, Simon has seen some very attractive fundamental characteristics in select companies.

“The share prices of UK house builders have been under pressure because people are naturally concerned about the economic environment and what it may mean for the UK housing market in the near term. On a three-to-five-year view, however, we see very robust demand for housing and limited supply, which should support profits for the industry. The UK has a large, growing population, a shortage of housing and a limited supply of new homes coming to the market.

From a medium-to-long-term fundamental perspective, therefore, the UK housing market looks well underpinned and some house builders also possess very attractive financial characteristics.”



Successful value investing provides the opportunity for investors to enjoy good long-term returns. By identifying good businesses and investing in them when they are out of favour, while at the same time avoiding stocks that look overvalued, investors can capitalise on the market’s inherent inefficiency.

Clearly, it’s not without risk. Sentiment can remain against the value investor in the short-term and markets can continue to defy rational expectations for longer than we may expect. But, as Ben Graham said, there is the potential to do well from a disciplined, value investment approach, as the market ultimately focuses on its task of weighing the fundamental attractions of individual businesses appropriately.

Under Simon Gergel’s management, investors have seen the benefits of his approach represented in a significant out performance of the UK stock market index. Whilst past performance does not predict future returns, since Simon’s appointment as portfolio manager in May 2006, Merchants shareholders have seen a Net Asset Value (NAV) total return of 6.41% per annum, which compares favourably to the 5.74% per annum delivered by the FTSE All Share Index2.

Simon, and fellow portfolio managers Richard Knight and Andrew Koch, are confident that by deploying the same disciplined approach and a willingness to invest away from the crowd, they will continue to find attractive long-term investment opportunities with the potential to meet Merchants’ objectives.

After all, as another legendary investor, Sir John Templeton once said, “It is impossible to produce a superior performance unless you do something different from the majority.”



1 Fundamental value is the genuine intrinsic worth of a company, as determined by factors such as the estimated value of the future cash flows it will generate, or the value of the assets on its balance sheet.
2 Source: Data Stream 31/05/2006 to 31/01/2024


There have been many reasons over recent years for investors to be ‘out of love’ with the UK; Brexit, political uncertainty, pandemic, Ukraine, Trussonomics and the perception of worse inflation & economic performance for the UK to name a handful. But, has the depressed sentiment been overdone? In this podcast the team discuss that with many of these factors firmly in the rear-view mirror, and with interest rates potentially close to their peak and UK economic growth recently being revised upwards, could the glass actually be half-full, rather than the pessimistic alternative?

Investing involves risk. The value of an investment and the income from it may fall as well as rise and investors might not get back the full amount invested. Past performance does not predict future returns. For further information contact the issuer at the address indicated below. From 25 July 2022, discretionary portfolio management services formerly provided to Allianz Technology Trust PLC (the “Company”) by Allianz Global Investors (“AllianzGI”) have been delegated to Voya Investment Management Co. LLC (“Voya IM”). All members of the former AllianzGI Global Technology Team transferred to Voya IM and continue to
manage the Company’s portfolio. It is anticipated that there will be no change to the investment process. AllianzGI will remain the Company’s AIFM (Alternative Investment Fund Manager), providing company secretarial, administration and sales and marketing services. This is a marketing communication issued by Allianz Global Investors UK Limited, an investment company, incorporated in the United Kingdom, with its registered office at 199 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3TY, Allianz Global Investors UK Limited company number 11516839 is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation are available from us on request and on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website ( The duplication, publication, or transmission of the contents, irrespective of the form, is not permitted; except for the case of explicit permission by Allianz Global Investors UK Limited. Allianz Technology Trust PLC is incorporated in England and Wales. (Company registration no. 3117355). Registered Office: 199 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3TY.


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