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21st April 2016

The best fund managers lose less to gain more

By Darius McDermott, Managing Director

How do you find the best manager? As Jupiter's John Chatfeild-Roberts pointed out at an event he hosted last week, finding fund managers is not a science, it’s an art form. But, according to John, the good ones all share similar traits: they have a resilient, repeatable and water-tight process; a cool temperament; a focus on absolute as well as relative returns; and a will to win. These are all things we too look for with Elite Rated fund managers.

Read more: What is the Elite Rating?

Another point made by John, which resonated most with me, however, was that they have a bias towards managers whose funds are more resilient in tough times. I couldn't agree more and, throughout my career in fund research, I've always gravitated towards, and favoured, this type of manager.

These aren't the funds making the headlines when markets have bottomed and start to rally—indeed they often get criticised for lagging behind—but they are the ones that give you more restful sleep.

Learn more: How to choose a fund

Investing for your future

The figures speak for themselves. If you lose 20% of your money, you need to gain 25% just to get back to where you started. So it's not an accident that the best managers, who lose less to start with, come out on top in the end.

Take the last two sell-offs we've had in markets: August 2015 and January 2016.

In the case of Elite Rated Fundsmith Equity, for example, managed by Terry Smith (who was a guest speaker at the event):

  • The fund lost 6.38% last August, compared with a loss of 10.51% for the global index
  • It lost 3.13% at the start of the year, while the global market fell 9.32%*.
  • When the market has subsequently rallied, his fund has lagged but the cumulative affect is a positive one: from August to today his fund is up 17.41% while the market is up 6%*.

Neil Woodford was another guest speaker and his Elite Rated Woodford Equity Income shows a similar story: losing 4% and 1% less than the UK market in August and January respectively, bouncing back to a lesser extent, but still outperforming the FTSE All Share by 2% over the period*.

The same is true for the Elite Rated funds of Stewart Investors Asia Pacific Leaders, Threadneedle European Select, Evenlode Income, Fidelity Enhanced Income... I could go on.

These are all funds with managers who pay close attention to what we call 'downside risk', or in other words, how much they will lose if they are wrong. They are managers who never forget they are investing money for someone's future, not just playing with the petty cash.

Look at performance after fees, not just fees

So when you're choosing a fund and constructing a portfolio, the funds that are shooting the lights out in a rising market aren't necessarily the ones that will make you money in the long run.

Often at these inflection points there is 'dash for trash' as everything moves up all at once. But what you really want are the good quality companies that produce the most consistent returns in all market environments.

A final comment: the cost of actively managed funds is a hot topic in the financial pages of the press. Unless companies have gone to rock bottom they are deemed to be bad. My personal view is that good fund management is worth paying for and it's performance after fees that is the most important consideration. While passive funds are cheap, it is impossible for them to outperform the market.

There are some people who obsess about charges and, while we think they are important, sometimes, if you want quality, you have to pay for it.

Where to next?


Source: FE Analytics, total returns in GBP for the periods 5th-24th August 2015, 1st Jan-11th February 2016 and 5th August 2015- 19th April 2016, using FTSE World and FTSE All-Share. * Source: FE Analytics, total returns in GBP September 2008 to March 2009.

Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns. You may not get back the amount originally invested, and tax rules can change over time. Darius' views are his own and do not constitute financial advice.

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©2016 FundCalibre Ltd. All Rights Reserved. The information, data, analyses, and opinions contained herein (1) include the proprietary information of FundCalibre, (2) may not be copied or redistributed without prior permission, (3) do not constitute investment advice offered by FundCalibre, (4) are provided solely for informational purposes and therefore are not an offer to buy or sell a security, and (5) are not warranted to be correct, complete, or accurate. FundCalibre, shall not be responsible for any trading decisions, damages, or other losses resulting from, or related to, this information, data, analyses, or opinions or their use.