Private companies

Peter Singlehurst

Peter is head of the Private Companies Team, manager of The Schiehallion Fund and a Baillie Gifford Partner.

Connect on LinkedIn

Peter Singlehurst sitting with his hands clasped.
I’m looking for companies that can have layers of growth. Where there is a logic as to why each successive layer gives them the right to win in the next. Where, as they grow, the odds become more skewed in their favour.

Filling in the map

I’ve long had a sense of wanderlust. As a 20-year-old, it manifested itself in adventures to far-flung places, including an 8,000-mile drive to Mongolia, crossing Iran, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan in a patched-up Ford Fiesta. Investing in private companies addresses the same drive for discovery. I see it as an expansion of the map for Baillie Gifford, finding out about companies that others haven’t heard of.


My master’s degree in philosophy taught me to keep asking ‘why?’ questions until you can’t ask anymore and then build up understanding from that point. I was also greatly influenced by Albert Camus. Many people take his insight that life has no meaning to be nihilistic. But I think it frees you to create your own meaning. That’s far more fulfilling and rewarding than living in accordance with a preordained purpose.

It also makes you responsible for your choices and decisions. I try to convey that sense of responsibility to the companies we invest in by telling them whose capital it is we manage. It’s important in finance to remember whose money it really is, including people’s retirement savings. I believe this can positively influence management’s behaviour when we entrust them with it.

First principles

I’m a generalist in terms of not restricting my search for private companies to any specific industries. What I love is finding great businesses doing exceptional things and understanding why they can be better and bigger in five years. I’m looking for leaders who have surprising views that I might disagree with and haven’t heard before. Then, I try to understand the origins of their thought processes. They are much more likely to have worked them out from first principles while considering a problem than inherited perceived wisdom.

Time to grow

We take a long-term approach to investing, but it’s not like that’s something differentiated or smart. It’s just what everybody would do if they weren’t pulled towards a short-term, frenetic approach by the latest news cycle, Wall Street or whatever you want to call it. Being long term gives us the appropriate time to test an investment hypothesis and benefit from multiple layers of growth playing out at the companies we back.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Favourite books

Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Get in touch

Send a message to Peter, or email the Private Companies Team directly.