e-fundresearch: Mr Thomas Brenier, you are the fund manager of Norden fund (ISIN: FR0000299356). Since when are your responsible for the fund management?
Brenier: I have been the fund manager of Norden since January 2008.
e-fundresearch: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Brenier: Norden’s benchmark is the MSCI Nordic index, in euros, net dividend.
e-fundresearch: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Brenier: No. Beside managing Norden, I’m also financial analyst in charge of the following sectors: Auto, Telecom and Oil service for our European equities portfolios.
e-fundresearch: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Brenier: The total assets under management for Norden is € 360.56M as of July 29, 2011.
e-fundresearch: Regarding the performance: which performance did you achieve since the beginning of the year and in the years 2006-2010? Absolutely and relatively to the relevant benchmark?
e-fundresearch: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Brenier: The management process of Norden, based on a disciplined stock selection, independent of trends, has proven its worth over the long term and through different market phases: on a 3-year basis, Norden has a positive performance of 36.8% while the MSCI Nordic rose only 4.9%. Over 5 years, Norden shows an outperformance of 22.1% compared to its benchmark (as of July 29, 2011). The fund was rated five stars by Morningstar for 3 years, 5 years and all periods.
e-fundresearch: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Brenier: Norden offers a diversification into stocks from a geographical area that is poorly represented in most of the European stock indexes and which historic performance has been higher than other markets (over 15 years as of December 31, 2010, the MSCI North Countries has increased by 248% against 106% for the CAC 40 and 71% for the MSCI World).
We seek to identify the companies with the best profile of economic performance measured by value creation and growth with a limited level of debt. ROCE 2011 (as of 07/29/2011) was 24% for the Norden stock portfolio, against 22% and 16% for MSCI Nordic and MSCI EMU.
e-fundresearch: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Brenier: I have been a fund manager since September 2007 and was previously a sell-side financial analyst covering technology stocks.
e-fundresearch: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Brenier: Norden has been my only experience as a fund manager, and I would believe it has been a success so far as the performance has been much better than the benchmark over the period. If I had to pick a disappointment, it would be to have only slightly outperformed the market in 2008. I would have been more satisfied if I could have been able to protect more the capital, but 1/ the market was not very selective in this period and 2/ it was clearly compensated by the 2009 strong outperformance.
e-fundresearch: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Brenier: We have an uncertain environment with concerns over sovereign debts, a deteriorating growth outlook and a very low market valuation. In such an environment, I continue to select high quality companies with sustainable returns, strong cash-flow generation and low debts.
e-fundresearch: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Brenier: One of the main challenges in this kind of environment is not to let our judgement be driven by fear or by the financial markets behaviour. It is thus very important, in times of high uncertainty, to work on alternative macro scenarios and understand what are the upside and downside risks of all our investments before we make any decision, in order to maximise our risk/reward outlook.
e-fundresearch: What objectives do you have till the end of the year and in the mid term for the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
Brenier: In this bumpy context, we remain faithful to our process and continue to select profitable and growing companies with little debt, while keeping close attentive to recovery. Our goal is to preserve and add value to our clients’ investments in the long run.
e-fundresearch: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
e-fundresearch: What motivates you in your job?
Brenier: - Stock Selection: meeting with top management of companies and understand their strategy and prospects is a highly satisfying work.
- Fund management: The stock market is a fascinating tool, which forces us to be very flexible in our way of thinking, and it is very motivating (even if often frustrating) to learn everyday and know that there will be no ending to this process.
- And to be fair, compensation is also part of the motivation for the job.
e-fundresearch: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Brenier: The main goal is to prove that the process we have set-up to run this fund, which I apply everyday, will prove its ability to outperform over the time, in any kind of market environment. While this goes on, we have an ambition to attract new investors and grow the assets under management.
e-fundresearch: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Brenier: From my studies, I have a dual background in Finance and Engineering in IT/Electronics. So, engineer was the first profession that I could have done instead of fund manager. And previously to my current position, I was an equity sell-side analyst, specialised on Technology sectors, for 8 years.
e-fundresearch: Thank you for the interview!