ThestoryofHelenMacphersonSmithTrust

From an initial bequest of £275,000 in 1951, $184m income has been generated, with $141.7m distributed to Victorian charities, while the corpus has grown to over $150m.

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History of Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

About Helen

Born in Scotland

Helen is born in Darnick, Scotland to Scottish-born father Robert Smith and Australian-born mother, Jane Priscilla Macpherson.

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The Investment Story

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On her death in 1951, the late Helen Macpherson Schutt (née Smith) left a bequest of £275,000 ($550,000) for the establishment of a charitable trust to benefit Victorian charities in perpetuity.

This distribution and corpus growth reflects an annual compound return of 13.0% p.a. over 72 years (1951-2023), split into capital growth of 7.0% p.a. and an average income return of 6.0% p.a. These returns compare favourably to the All-Ordinaries Accumulation Index which averaged 10.9% p.a. and inflation which averaged 4.4% p.a. over the 72-year period. Expressed another way, the return achieved by the Trust over 72 years has exceeded inflation by 8.6% p.a.

This investment performance did not happen by chance. Helen instructed her trustees to re-invest two thirds of the income generated over the first 21 years of the Trust. One of the features of compounding is the substantial benefit gained from strong growth early in the life of a fund. This income from the first 21 years of the Trust now accounts for $71m (or 47%) of the $150m corpus. In 2009 the Supreme Court of Victoria approved an Administrative Scheme which again gave the Trustees limited power to accumulate income to corpus. This power of accumulation activated by the Trustees from FY10 now accounts for $11m (or 8%) of the $150m corpus.

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Helen’s named beneficiaries

Helen was a philanthropist throughout her life, supporting a number of charitable causes. She was one of the first life members of the Lost Dogs’ Home, with her name appearing in the list of donors in the years between 1914 and 1935. Records of the Victorian Missions to Seamen (now Mission to Seafarers) show she was an honorary member of the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild. She donated to the organisation in 1911 and was still doing so in 1927. Helen was also a life member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a regular supporter of the Royal District Nursing Service. In 1919 Helen donated funds to what was then the Melbourne District Nursing Society when the city suffered its worst-ever influenza epidemic. These organisations are named by Helen in her Will, as beneficiaries the Trustees may wish to consider.

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