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Why the Polen Capital Global Growth Fund portfolio is going to help investors win in the long run

In this video Polen Capital’s Damon Ficklin joins Roger to discuss the portfolio characteristics of the businesses owned in the Polen Capital Global…



In this video Polen Capital’s Damon Ficklin joins Roger to discuss the portfolio characteristics of the businesses owned in the Polen Capital Global Growth Fund. The businesses Polen Capital invest in are truly advantaged and have the ability to weather the business cycle and continue to perform well in the current environment. Two examples of businesses delivering double-digit revenue growth include Align Technology and Visa.


Roger Montgomery: Up on screen is the current Polen Capital Global Growth Fund portfolio as at the end of December 2022. Obviously there’s a spectrum in terms of growth. There’s the faster growth growing companies over on the right-hand side and they’re balanced with some slower but steadier growth, think of it as the ballast in a ship. Why is this portfolio going to help investors win in the long run?

Damon can you talk a little bit about the portfolio characteristics, the growth of these companies and we can pull out some individual companies also.

Damon Ficklin:  At a high level, what are we looking for are truly advantaged businesses. So great economics, high returns on underlying capital, better than average growth. Ultimately we think the growth in earnings from the companies in the aggregate portfolio is what is driving the outcome. These are all above average growers, some slightly above, some well above average. But in the aggregate EPS growth estimates growing in the mid-teens. 

Roger Montgomery:

You can see that on this slide here.


Damon Ficklin:

Typically these companies have improving margins. This is very important in today’s environment. These companies have pricing power, they have differentiated products and value added services. So if you experience a little bit of inflation, they can actually pass that through. So strong profitability and we think even despite the environment, we’ll see continued improvements in profitability over time. They all have organic growth engines from our point of view. So this isn’t acquisition driven growth, but organic. And then finally these businesses are not leveraged. In the aggregate though they have a little bit of leverage on the balance sheet, but very, very strong balance sheets compared to the broader market. So outstanding economic characteristics. These companies will drive growth through environments, through cycles and truly exceptional businesses. We can highlight a couple of examples.

Roger Montgomery: Here’s Align Technology.

Damon Ficklin:

Align Technology is a bit more dynamic than some of the companies. It’s one of our smaller weightings because we recognise the dynamism in the market. This company invented invisible orthodontics,  Invisalign is the brand if you’re not already familiar with Align Technology. And despite having 900 plus patents and a decade head start against any competitors and being very, very dominant in the marketplace, they still serve roughly 10 per cent of the addressable market. So during the pandemic we saw a boom and growth, and then last year we were digesting that boom and growth. So from a hundred percent plus growth and not much growth. The stock underperformed understandably during that period of time.

Year to date, it’s risen north of 50 per cent again, as we’re now starting to get to the other side of those easier compares. A more dynamic situation, but truly advantaged. We don’t want to an outsized weight in a business that’s just dynamic. But I just wanted to give you one example that shows we’re going to own great companies through cycles. They’re going to go up and down as the market sentiment changes. But ultimately there’s a tremendous opportunity here and we think this company can drive 20 per cent plus earnings per share growth for many years to come. 

Roger Montgomery: And that’s an important thing to remember, 20 plus per cent earnings per share growth will come back to earnings per share growth several times today. There’s another one here Damon, Visa. Perhaps have chat to us about that company.

Damon Ficklin:

Absolutely, and this is a great example. Visa is a large position in the portfolio. We actually own Visa and Mastercard. So on a combined basis they’re among our largest weights and this is a very steady as she goes business. They’ve been compounding earnings in the high teens for a long time and we think that’s still in the cards for many years to come. This is essentially a toll booth type business. You can see a little bit of slowing growth in a softer environment, but we still believe very strong growth across the board. And in fact, up to this moment in time, Visa and Mastercard are reporting very strong numbers. 

While everyone is a little bit concerned around the economic environment that’s evolving, the realtime signal that we’re getting from these companies is that the consumer is still pretty healthy. They might be shifting what they’re spending on, but they’re still spending in the same way. And that’s with their credit and debit cards and other digital forms of payment. So these businesses are essentially a global duopoly outside of China. Incredibly difficult to compete with. Platform businesses that are going to drive that strong steady growth for a very long time.

Damon Ficklin:

Over the next three to five years, we expect the global growth portfolio to grow earnings in the mid-teens. But to kind of zoom in and just answer the question of what does it look like today.

What does the rest of the world think is going to come out of the companies we own, despite the fact that the rest of the world thinks we’re going into a recession. And this is the result.


I would knock both of the tails off, Amazon are expected to see explosive growth in earnings. That’s a result of a lot of pressure on their earnings over the past 12 months, which I’m happy to talk about. But let’s just kind of put that aside for a minute. We expect really good growth from Amazon, but take that outlier off.

On the other side, Abbott and Thermo Fisher, the earnings growth are under pressure because both of these companies had significant Covid revenues, Covid testing, so some of that sun is now setting. Thankfully we’re getting back to a world where everyone doesn’t have to test every week. But if you look through those kinds of short term shifts, on an underlying organic basis, these companies are growing at the low double digitsand low teens rate. And then look at the middle of the curve. It just tells you the picture of stability. This is what we expect. Earnings drives the outcome over time and we expect that we’ll see strong growth despite potentially challenging environment in the near term.

Roger Montgomery: And Damon, the valuations for these companies aren’t demanding at the moment?

Damon Ficklin:

Not at all.  The silver lining from a tough 2022 is when companies are actually delivering good fundamentals is that valuations went from at the high end to very reasonable very quickly.

So as you look at it today, this chart is just showing the current one-year forward P/E ratio of each of our companies; relative to their past 10-year history.


And what you can see on the left-hand side of the chart we have Amazon, Alphabet, ServiceNow, Adobe, Align. These are in the bottom decile in terms of valuation versus history. In other words, very attractively valued. Not surprisingly, these are amongst some of our larger positions or new positions. ServiceNow is new. The other three of the four I mentioned there at the tail are large weights within our portfolio. So taking advantage of that very attractive valuation and at the aggregate level portfolios are about average. If you just look straight across the board versus our history, we think the valuations are compelling and we think the companies are going to drive the outcome over time.

Roger Montgomery: So in summary, last year, a tough year, no doubt about that particularly for quality and growth. But that’s delivered attractive valuations and you’re still focused on a portfolio of businesses that are growing in the mid-teens in terms of earnings per share growth.

Damon Ficklin:

The quality and the growth of this portfolio is intact. Those factors were not working in the market in the past probably 15 and 24 months. But we do know that it will be realised over time.

Roger Montgomery: I am conscious of a quote from Warren Buffett. And I’ve used it many times so people will be tired of hearing it. But he once famously said, “Your job as an investor is to put together a portfolio of businesses whose earnings march upward over the years.” And he went on to say, “Put together a portfolio of businesses whose earnings march upward over the years. Buy them at a rational price and the wealth will come. The portfolio will look after itself.” And that’s exactly what you guys are doing.

Damon Ficklin:

Absolutely. You have to have the temperament to deal with the market not agreeing with what you own for short periods of time. But we think if you want to produce significant outperformance over time, you can’t look like the index and you can’t be swayed by what the market is voting in short periods of time.

The Polen Capital Global Growth Fund owns shares in Align Technology and Visa. This video was prepared 28 March 2023 with the information we have today, and our view may change. It does not constitute formal advice or professional investment advice. If you wish to trade these companies you should seek financial advice.

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DNAmFitAge: Biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”…



“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

Credit: 2023 McGreevy et al.

“We expect DNAmFitAge will be a useful biomarker for quantifying fitness benefits at an epigenetic level and can be used to evaluate exercise-based interventions.”

BUFFALO, NY- June 7, 2023 – A new research paper was published in Aging (listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 10, entitled, “DNAmFitAge: biological age indicator incorporating physical fitness.”

Physical fitness is a well-known correlate of health and the aging process and DNA methylation (DNAm) data can capture aging via epigenetic clocks. However, current epigenetic clocks did not yet use measures of mobility, strength, lung, or endurance fitness in their construction. 

In this new study, researchers Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Ferenc Torma, Matyas Jokai, Ake T. Lu, Daniel W. Belsky, Alexandra Binder, Riccardo E. Marioni, Luigi Ferrucci, Ewelina Pośpiech, Wojciech Branicki, Andrzej Ossowski, Aneta Sitek, Magdalena Spólnicka, Laura M. Raffield, Alex P. Reiner, Simon Cox, Michael Kobor, David L. Corcoran, and Steve Horvath from the University of California Los Angeles, University of Physical Education, Altos Labs, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, University of Edinburgh, National Institute on Aging, Jagiellonian University, Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, University of Łódź, Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police in Warsaw, Poland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia develop blood-based DNAm biomarkers for fitness parameters including gait speed (walking speed), maximum handgrip strength, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) which have modest correlation with fitness parameters in five large-scale validation datasets (average r between 0.16–0.48). 

“These parameters were chosen because handgrip strength and VO2max provide insight into the two main categories of fitness: strength and endurance [23], and gait speed and FEV1 provide insight into fitness-related organ function: mobility and lung function [8, 24].”

The researchers then used these DNAm fitness parameter biomarkers with DNAmGrimAge, a DNAm mortality risk estimate, to construct DNAmFitAge, a new biological age indicator that incorporates physical fitness. DNAmFitAge was associated with low-intermediate physical activity levels across validation datasets (p = 6.4E-13), and younger/fitter DNAmFitAge corresponds to stronger DNAm fitness parameters in both males and females. 

DNAmFitAge was lower (p = 0.046) and DNAmVO2max is higher (p = 0.023) in male body builders compared to controls. Physically fit people had a younger DNAmFitAge and experienced better age-related outcomes: lower mortality risk (p = 7.2E-51), coronary heart disease risk (p = 2.6E-8), and increased disease-free status (p = 1.1E-7). These new DNAm biomarkers provide researchers a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks.

“Our newly constructed DNAm biomarkers and DNAmFitAge provide researchers and physicians a new method to incorporate physical fitness into epigenetic clocks and emphasizes the effect lifestyle has on the aging methylome.”

Read the full study: DOI: 

Corresponding Authors: Kristen M. McGreevy, Zsolt Radak, Steve Horvath

Corresponding Emails:,, 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, physical fitness, biological age, DNA methylation

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About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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Martha Stewart Has a Spicy Take on Americans Who Want to Work From Home

This half-baked take might need to stay in the oven a little longer.



Lifestyle icon Martha Stewart has been on a roll when it comes to representing vivacious women over 60. Whether she's teaming up to charm audiences alongside her BFF Snoop Dogg, poking fun at Elon Musk, or starring as Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue cover model, Martha stays busy. 

Her most recent publicity moment, however, doesn't have the same wholesome feeling Stewart brings to the table. In an interview with Footwear News, the DIY-queen had some choice words about Americans who want to continue working from home after covid-19 lockdown shut down offices.

“You can’t possibly get everything done working three days a week in the office and two days remotely," the cozy-home guru said. "Look at the success of France with their stupid … you know, off for August, blah blah blah. That’s not a very thriving country. Should America go down the drain because people don’t want to go back to work?”

Well, that's certainly a viewpoint. A lot to unpack there. Many online were confused--after all, didn't Stewart basically make her career by "working from home?"

Sitting down with The Today Show, Stewart elaborated on her controversial stance. It seems she's confusing "work from home" with a three-day workweek. 

"I'm having this argument with so many people these days. It's just that my kind of work is very creative and is very collaborative. And I cannot really stomach another zoom. [...But] I hate going to an office, it's empty. During COVID I took every precaution. We [...] set up an office at [...] my home[...] Now we're our offices and our three day work week, I just don't agree with it," Stewart tells viewers. 

"It's frightening because if you read the economic news and look at what's happening everywhere in the world, a three-day workweek doesn't get the work done, doesn't get the productivity up. It doesn't help with the economy and I think that's very important."

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How cashless societies can boost financial inclusion — with the right safeguards

The UK could learn a lot from developing economies about using digital payments to boost financial inclusion.




Accepting digital payments. WESTOCK PRODUCTIONS/Shutterstock

Cashless societies, where transactions are entirely digital, are gaining traction in many parts of the world, particularly after a pandemic-era boom in demand for online banking.

Improvements in digital payment infrastructure such as mobile payments, digital currencies and online banking, make it more convenient for people and businesses to buy and sell things without using cash. Even the Bank of England is looking into how a digital pound might work, showing the potential for a significant shift from physical cash to digital payments in the UK.

Read more: How a digital pound could work alongside cryptocurrencies

Fintech companies have accelerated the transition towards cashless payments with innovations including mobile payment apps, digital wallets, cryptocurrencies and online banking services. The COVID pandemic was also a tipping point that created unprecedented appetite for digital transactions. Fintechs emerged as a life line for many during lockdowns, particularly vulnerable populations that needed emergency lines of credit and ways to make and receive payments.

By 2021, approximately 71% of adults in developing countries had bank accounts. But this leaves nearly 30% of the population still needing access to essential financial products and services. Fintechs can provide more affordable and accessible financial services and products. This helps boost financial inclusion, particularly for the “unbanked”, or those without a bank account.

In the UK, around 1.3 million people, roughly 4% of the population, lack access to banking services. The government and financial institutions have worked together to promote the adoption of digital payments, and the UK’s Request to Pay service allows people and businesses to request and make payments using digital channels such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

But other countries are moving faster towards a cashless society. In Sweden, only about 10% of all payments were made in cash in 2020. This move towards cashless payments in the country has been facilitated by mobile payment solutions like Swish, which people can use to send and receive money via mobile phone.

Boosting financial inclusion

India has gone even further. In less than a decade, the country has become a digital finance leader. It has also made significant progress in promoting digital financial inclusion, mainly through the government’s flagship programme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).

India’s banks also participate in mobile payment solutions like Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which can connect multiple accounts via one app. India’s digital infrastructure, known as the India Stack also aims to expand financial inclusion by encouraging companies to develop fintech solutions.

Many developing economies are using digitalisation to boost financial inclusion in this way. Kenya introduced its M-Pesa mobile money service in 2007. While microfinance institutions that provide small loans to low-income individuals and small businesses were first introduced in Bangladesh in the 1970s via the Grameen Bank project.

Digital lending has also grown in India in recent years. Its fintechs use algorithms and data analytics to assess creditworthiness and provide loans quickly and at a lower cost than traditional banks.

These innovative platforms have helped to bridge the gap between the formal financial system and underserved populations – those with low or no income – providing fast access to financial services. By removing barriers such as high transaction costs, lack of physical branches and some credit history requirements, fintech companies can reach a wider range of customers and provide financial services that are tailored to their needs.

It’s the tech behind these systems that helps fintechs connect with their customers. The increased use of digital payment methods generates a wealth of data to gain insights into consumer behaviour, spending patterns and other relevant information that can be used to further support a cashless society.

Helping the UK’s unbanked

Countries like the UK could also promote digital financial inclusion to help unbanked people. But this would require a combination of government support, innovation and the widespread adoption of mobile payment solutions.

There are some significant challenges to overcome to create a true – and truly fair – cashless economy. For example, a cashless system could exclude people who do not have access to digital payment methods, such as the elderly or low-income populations. According to a recent study by Age UK, 75% of over 65s with a bank account said they wanted to conduct at least one banking task in person at a bank branch, building society or post office.

Providing more cashless options could also increase the risk of cybercrime, digital fraud such as phishing scams and data breaches – particularly among people that aren’t as financially literate.

There is a dark side to fintech: algorithm biases and predatory lending practices negatively affect vulnerable and minority groups as well as women. Even major financial firms such as Equifax, Visa and Mastercard can get compromised by data breaches, creating valid concerns about data security for many people.

Cross-border transfer of personal data by fintech companies also concerns regulators, but there is still a lack of internationally recognised data protection standards. This should be addressed as the trend towards cashless societies continues.

Two hands hold a fan of GBP banknotes: £5, £10, £20, £50.
Paying with cash. Nieves Mares/Shutterstock

Building guardrails

Regulations affect how fintech companies can provide financial services but ensure they operate within the law. Since fintech companies generally aim to disrupt markets, however, this can create a complex relationship with regulators.

Collaboration between regulators and fintech companies will boost understanding of these innovative business models and help shape future regulatory frameworks. Countries like India have shown the way in this respect. An innovation hub run by UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority is a good start. It supports product and service launches and offers access to synthetic data sets for testing and development.

Fintech can help finance become more inclusive. But it needs policies and regulations that support innovation, promote competition, ensure financial stability and – most importantly – to help protect the citizens of these new cashless societies.

Thankom Arun does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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