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Regional investment portfolio launches in 'vote of confidence' for Yorkshire

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Wednesday, 20 May, 2020


Eagerly awaited regional investment portfolio launches in ‘vote of confidence' for Yorkshire

-         Yorkshire T20 taps into ‘buy and invest local' sentiment sparked by COVID-19 pandemic


After a year in Beta, Mole Valley Asset Management (MVAM) is delighted to announce the launch of its new Yorkshire T20 portfolio.

Believed to be the first of its kind - it is made up of 20 handpicked, listed companies from across Yorkshire, including a scientific innovator on the brink of announcing a ground-breaking, instant test for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Community-based asset management company MVAM is determined to champion some of the best businesses the county has to offer and provide a way for people to grow their savings while supporting local, home-grown industry.

Duncan Sanford, who heads up the innovative Mole Valley's Yorkshire office, in York's Blake Street, has carefully built the portfolio over the past year, based on his extensive regional experience as formerChief Executive  and Chief Investment Officer  for Nestlé Capital Management Ltd, the famous chocolate manufacturer's global pension fund, and former Interim Deputy CIO of LGPS Central Limited; as well his knowledge derived from living and working in the region and extensive relationship-building with firms ‘made in Yorkshire'.

Duncan explained that the Yorkshire T20 reflects MVAM's ethos of community-focused investing and asset management, based on playing an active part in regional economies and close and lasting engagement with firms and potential investors alike.The portfolio is capped at £25m, to enable it to remain agile and better able to adapt quickly both to market trends and client wishes.

"Over 80 companies that have head offices in Yorkshire are listed on the stock markets, from gourmet food producers to digital gaming companies, property giants and healthcare equipment minnows," said Duncan.

"Yorkshire, for me, has a large enough universe of companies to select from, and enough diversification within those companies to create a portfolio, rather than just saying ‘we're picking healthcare stocks' or something like that.

"Living and working in the region, I've been pleasantly surprised by the variety, quality and success of the enterprises of all shapes and sizes to be found here. To my mind, Yorkshire is at the forefront of business innovation in the UK across a broad range of industry sectors, which provides the perfect opportunity for people who would like to invest their money closer to home.

"And because our regional Mole Valley offices - in Yorkshire and Surrey - are established in the heart of their communities, they can take the time to really get under the skin of these companies, build close relationships, identify changing trends and select, with confidence, those which represent the best opportunities for people in the region."

Mole Valley first announced its intention of creating the portfolio when it opened its dedicated York office in February 2019, and has spent the 12 months since carefully selecting the first contingent for the portfolio, and rehearsing its investment strategy in a test format.

"It's been an absolute pleasure deep diving into the Yorkshire business community to really get to know its most promising firms, and select the first set for inclusion in our portfolio," added Duncan.

"There is so much potential in this area - in industries from digital to creative and pharmaceutical - it's hard to choose, but we believe what we've come up with is an excellent group of listed firms which are either already hugely successful or, in many cases, about to break through, with significant potential benefits for investors getting into their game now.

"Our approach is to work with the businesses we've selected, and others that are up and coming, so that we can accompany them along their growth journey, generating benefits for them and our investors."

And this ultra-personal approach is also reflected in MVAM's active portfolio management, aimed at ensuring it can respond to opportunities and potential threats, in order to ensure the best possible returns.

"We're a relatively small investment house," adds Duncan, "and our size means that we can invest in companies, regardless of their size, without encountering the problems larger portfolio managers have when investing in smaller companies. It gives us an advantage."

Presenting at MVAM's York opening last year was a company the asset manager has been invested in since its inception, Wetherby-based biotech Avacta. Already working to develop a new class of cancer drugs aimed at patients who don't respond to existing therapies, this year Avacta has also turned its attention to the fight against COVID-19, and is working to develop a game-changing instant testing kit and potential treatment for the virus.

Avacta CEO Alastair Smith said: "I am delighted and honoured that Avacta finds a place in MVAM's Yorkshire T20 portfolio.


"Our roots are firmly in Yorkshire but we're partnering around the world to develop novel cancer therapies and powerful diagnostics to help shape the future of medicine".


Another impressive company included in the portfolio is ZOO Digital, based in Sheffield, London, Los Angeles and Dubai, whichprovides a range of services for entertainment media companies around the world. The company's CEO Dr Stuart Green said: "We have always been incredibly pleased by the amount of local private investor support we receive. This portfolio provides another platform and a new way to reach a wider local audience of investors who are eager to support local businesses."

Duncan believes MVAM is also at the forefront of emerging investor trends, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"While, of course, there's always going to be an appetite for investment in global companies, we've seen the tide starting to turn for some time, with people looking increasingly to be part of their local economies," he added.

"We can only see that counter-globalisation drive increasing post-COVID-19, as people re-assess their priorities in all aspects of their lives. And, if they're increasingly looking to shop local, why not invest local as well?"

And this could be the ideal time to consider investing for other reasons, too.

"Sadly, as we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted severely on the international stock markets and economy," said Duncan.

"However, what that means is - while it's always essential to proceed with caution and seek advice before investing, which we are committed to offering on a case-by-case basis -  some stocks represent exceptionally good value at the moment, which should mean the potential for greater returns once the markets do return to normal. This is naturally caveated with the warning that the impact on the economy may be longer lasting.

In addition to its strong Yorkshire pedigree, MVAM's ethos is based on transparency about the performance of its portfolios and the ability for its investors to access their capital on demand.

And early signs are very positive, in terms of interest in the portfolio, as well as the promise the firms within the Yorkshire T20 are demonstrating.

Duncan added: "We believe now is the time to offer investors what we believe is a more local choice, in line with current public sentiment.

"Our test phase went very well, with good indications of strong performance potential among our chosen companies. We've also had a very positive initial reaction from investors - both individuals and businesses like solicitors and accountants.

"A number of our 20 selected companies are on the brink of significant growth - in some cases as a direct result of their response to the pandemic.

"We've done extensive portfolio modelling during our 12-month beta phase and, as a result, are very optimistic about the future prospects of our selected companies."


For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact Tracy Fletcher at By Tracy Fletcher Limited PR, via 07983 633385 or



Notes for editors


As a company, MVAM aims is to encourage clients to have a healthier, more personal relationship with their money. We believe that, too often these days, people's lifetime savings are invested impersonally and anonymously, with multiple levels of administration, each of which takes its own percentage cut.

By contrast, MVAM deals directly with both investors and the companies we invest in, in order to be upfront about our fees and keep all costs to a minimum. We pledge to take an active personal interest in all our clients, so that we can better understand what sort of investment decisions they are comfortable with, and the rewards they expect.

MVAM's other financial services include a Premium Dividend Portfolio, AIM Inheritance Tax Portfolio, retirement planning, ISAs and corporate pension schemes. A dedicated investor portal app is available to all investors, along with personalised monthly financial reports.

Any Yorkshire investors wishing to enquire about our services can contact the York office via 07950 205733,

Duncan Sanford, Director and Portfolio Manager

Duncan Sanford is the Director and Portfolio Manager for MVAM's York office. He has over 20 years' experience in the international financial industry, successfully combining direct investment and managing active investment teams. He worked as CEO and CIO for Nestlé Capital Management Ltd accountable for the global pension fund assets, managed both internally and externally. He joined MVAM from LGPS Central Limited, an aggregation of nine UK public pension funds, where he was the Interim Deputy CIO responsible for building the internal investment team and selecting external investment opportunities.

Case study - Avacta

One of the Yorkshire-based companies featured in MVAM's Yorkshire T20 portfolio is biotech firm Avacta which is on the brink of launching a game-changing instant test and potential treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Wetherby-headquartered innovator is developing a saliva-based antigen test which is intended to provide a result in minutes indicating whether a person has the COVID-19 infection at that moment whether they are symptomatic or not, filling a crucial gap in the fight against the virus.

And, just last week, Avacta announced its discovery that the same biomedical technology may also be capable of preventing contracting the potentially deadly illness, and slowing down its progression among those who do catch it.

These breakthroughs are linked to Avacta's proprietary Affimer reagent capability, which is already helping to detect cancer and may result in groundbreaking treatments for that disease, too, in the not too distant future.

Avacta's Affimer reagents can be made to recognise and grab hold of a range of biological targets to detect them in the case of diagnostic testing, or to block their action in the human body in the case of a therapeutic.

Avacta's shares, listed on the AIM London stock exchange, shot up by 30 per cent in a single day in mid-May, after it announced its COVID-19 therapy, which works by blocking the interaction between the SARS-COV-2 virus' spike protein and ACE2, a receptor on human cells that is key to the spread of the virus in the body, to neutralise it and restrict its progression through human cells. Avacta's shares, listed on the AIM London stock exchange, shot up by 30 per cent in a single day after it announced its COVID-19 therapy, which works by blocking the interaction between the SARS-COV-2 virus' spike protein and ACE2, a receptor on human cells that is key to the spread of the virus in the body, to neutralise it and restrict its progression through human cells.

"The diagnostic side of our business has been focusing for a while on developing appropriate testing and monitoring capabilities for infectious diseases, so we were perfectly primed to support the fight against COVID-19," said Avacta CEO Alastair Smith.

"However, if everything goes according to plan with our coronavirus testing solution, the scale of the opportunity will be orders of magnitude greater than any other diagnostic test and the market for this in the UK and globally is unquantifiable.

"While, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is very, very unfortunate, our IP, progress and partnerships mean that it has delivered an opportunity for our company which was unimaginable at the start of the year.

"The nature of the Affimer technology has allowed us to respond very quickly to the coronavirus outbreak and we are all proud to be able to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 by providing effective rapid testing and, potentially, a therapy."

Alastair explained why inclusion in the Yorkshire-based portfolio means so much to him and his team.

"We are very much a local company growing globally," he said.

"I'm a Yorkshireman myself and many of our employees based at our Wetherby lab and head office are local, and it's great to have a showcase like this for the innovation and entrepreneurship going on in Yorkshire.

"Yorkshire doesn't have the same kind of profile as the ‘golden triangle' of Oxford, Cambridge and London, but there are some fantastic universities in the region - for example Leeds, York and Sheffield - that are turning out some fantastic entrepreneurs and IP concepts, and I see no reason why, for example, we shouldn't establish a biotech triangle for Yorkshire."

He paid tribute to his Yorkshire-based team, who have worked tirelessly to develop Avacta's response to COVID-19, amid difficult social distancing conditions, for the sake of humanity.

Please note, a longer feature about Avacta's work is available on request.


Zoo Digital case study


One of the Yorkshire-based companies featured in MVAM's Yorkshire T20 portfolio is ZOO Digital, which operates from bases in London, Los Angeles and Dubai, as well as their HQ in Sheffield.

ZOO provide of range of services for entertainment media companies around the world that are producing TV shows and films to help them get their products to market. Their two main services are ‘localisation' -  adapting the content for different languages, either via dubbing the actors' voices or creating subtitles - and ‘digital packaging', which involves putting those materials into the appropriate technical formats to make them suitable for all different channels of delivery, such as Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.

With clients including Hollywood's major players, the future is looking stratospheric for this cutting-edge creative company, which says it is ‘fuelled by awesomeness'. CEO Dr Stuart Green said: "We have always been incredibly pleased by the amount of local private investor support we receive. This portfolio provides another platform and a new way to reach a wider local audience of investors who are eager to support local businesses.

"Being part of a portfolio like this is very helpful. It enables more local participation and engagement, and that's important for us to raising profile of region.

"We draw on our local community in Yorkshire for staffing, and we collaborate with local universities. ZOO Digital might operate on a global scale but it's important to us to raise our local profile and give our community a business they can be proud of."

Please note, a longer feature about Zoo Digital's work is available on request.