History of Investment Trusts

Over the past 150-plus years, investment trusts (often termed investment companies or closed-ended funds) have witnessed global conflicts and various financial crises. Throughout, they have successfully responded and adapted such that many are still thriving today.

The Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust was the first and original investment trust launched in 1868 and it is still going strong today. When launched, the “investment vehicle for the many” provided “the investor of moderate means the same advantage as the large capitalist”.

The London investment companies were formed to provide diversified exposure for a new breed of investors who had made money from the industrial revolution and in particular from the nineteenth century railway boom. The concept was swiftly taken up north of the Scottish border and in February 1873, Robert Fleming launched The Scottish American Trust in Dundee, now called Dunedin Income Growth.

Our timeline below plots the launch and origins of some of the oldest investment trusts that continue to thrive today.

Investment trusts still have the same purpose today as they did over 150 years ago, allowing investors to gain exposure to a diversified range of companies or other assets such as infrastructure and property in one company.

According to The Association of Investment Companies (AIC) website, there are 365 investment trusts with a collective value of £268bn (as at 31/12/2023).

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1865 - 1909


The F&C Investment Trust is founded by Philip Rose, later financial adviser to Benjamin Disraeli, with the purpose of "bringing stock market investing to those of moderate means".


SAINTS was initially formed as The Scottish American Investment Company Limited by William Menzies.
Robert Fleming launched The Scottish American Investment Trust in Dundee, now called Dunedin Income Growth. His name graced one of the London’s most famous merchant banks, Flemings (today JP Morgan Asset Management).
Image source: Aberdeen Standard Investments


JP Morgan American Investment Trust was one of the original Emerging Markets investment vehicles when it launched, investing in three of the railroads that were built to service the new growth economy that was the United States.


Mercantile was founded the same year Greenwich was chosen as the world's prime meridian. There was a wave of passion for science and innovation and this was reflected in the Trust's early investments in railways, steam navigation and telecommunication.


The Scottish Investment Trust was registered on 27 July 1887 and was founded by John Dick Peddie, a well-known Edinburgh architect and Liberal MP.


Alliance Trust launched. When the company was founded, it was a mortgage bank; borrowing money from investors in the UK and lending it to pioneer farmers in the north western United States.


Five investment companies launched in 1889, the Edinburgh Investment Trust being one of them. It invested 53 per cent of the initial portfolio in ordinary shares ranging from breweries to diamond mines.


British Assets Trust was formed in Edinburgh by James Ivory. Founded on an unlikely niche: the undervalued assets of distressed Antipodean banks and insurance companies.


Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust was launched in 1909 to offer mortgages to rubber plantation owners in Malaya (now Malaysia) who wanted to benefit from the boom in rubber caused by the launch of the Model T Ford motor car.