Investment Universe, Process, Strategy and Benchmark – How does the Fund Manager invest? (ISIN: LU0271651761)Michael Rachor: "Our key elements to Portfolio strategy centre on buying low expectations, selling high expectations. Stocks are systematically mispriced because investors repeatedly overvalue companies with recent strong performance and undervalue companies with recent poor performance. In behavioural finance, this is known as ´Extrapolation Bias´. The Portfolio seeks to exploit the market inefficiencies that exist due to the discrepancy between investors´ extrapolation bias and economic reality. An unconstrained, global, broadly diversified, bottom-up stock picking approach allows maximum freedom to benefit from the investment philosophy, across all sectors and geographies. Our quantitative model aims to objectively identify buy opportunities, while our qualitative fundamental analysis underpins our final investment decision. Options are used to hedge a portion of the Portfolio against price fluctuations. Reduction of currency risk is achieved through an active currency overlay strategy."
Performance Review 2007
Michael Rachor: "Our portfolio underperformed its benchmark, the MSCI World Index, during the first quarter of the year primarily due to our selected exposure to US diversified financial groups and insurance companies. Among financials, our holdings in Citigroup and Merrill Lynch & Co declined in tandem with weaker global financial markets.
Our portfolio performed inline with its benchmark during the second quarter due to successful stock selection in the Industrials, Materials and Telecommunications sectors. Takeover speculation pushed shares higher in mining company, Rio Tinto, during the period, enhancing portfolio returns in the materials sector.
Our portfolio experienced some underperformance in the third quarter. Volatility in Asian equities and the Japanese yen held back relative returns in August, while a strong outperformance of US equities in September was also unhelpful.
Our fund experienced some weakness relative to its benchmark in the fourth quarter of the year. On an aggregated level, portfolio returns were held back by the relative underperformance of our cyclical holdings as investors sought the safe haven of more defensive titles. We found fewer attractive investment opportunities among financial companies and hold an underweight exposure to the sector as a result. This positioning benefited relative performance after investor sentiment towards financial stocks was undermined by significant write-downs by leading companies in the sector in connection with exposure to the US sub-prime crisis."
Performance Review 2008
Michael Rachor: "Global Select’s quantitative-driven stock selection model is designed to identify those stocks that are undervalued relative to peers, which have the potential to revert to average peer group valuation over the medium term. This process of ‘mean reversion’ has repeatedly occurred throughout business cycles, and its predictability supports the philosophy on which our Global Select strategy is based.
However, if unprecedented market conditions make investors become nervous, the process of mean reversion can unfortunately be delayed, as perceived safe-havens tend to attract uncertain investors, who willingly pay premium prices for stocks exhibiting recent positive price momentum.
These two observations summarise Global Select’s performance over 2008: in the first half of the year, when normality prevailed, mean reversion occurred as expected, allowing our strategy to generate positive absolute returns. Yet when confusion arose as the credit crisis intensified in the second half, the process of mean reversion was suspended, and investors flocked to perceived safe havens, leading to further declines in the prices of stocks that we believed were already undervalued relative to peers.
However, looking back at the second half of 2008, it is clear that the sectors offering the greatest relative value on our proprietary scoring scale were also those which investors were abandoning in search of perceived safe havens. Sectors such as Industrials, which suffered as fears surrounding restricted capital availability forced earnings revisions among stocks heavily reliant on capital expenditure, began to rank highly in our model as we moved into autumn."
Performance Review 2009
Michael Rachor: "The Portfolio outperformed its benchmark in 2009. Our diversified selection of stocks, selected through our qualitative screen, significantly contributed to returns over the year. In the first quarter of the year we reduced our bigger active sector positions significantly because the dispersion levels of valuation within the sectors were at extreme levels. We therefore felt that we could gain alpha from stock picks without taking big sector bets. Risk premiums had come down during the year, but they still ended 2009 at slightly elevated levels, so a more neutral sector positioning was beneficial."
Performance Review 2010
Michael Rachor: "The fund underperformed its benchmark in 2010. The main negative contributor to performance in 2010 was the currency overlay detracting 190 bps. The fund is strategically overweight in Euro as this is thought to reduce the risk for investors based in Euro region. As the Euro showed weakness because of the sovereign solvency situation, performance suffered. Sector allocation did not play a role in the relative performance as sector bets remained tight. The fund´s overweight position in Emerging Market equities positively impacted relative performance (China added 95 bps), while the underweight of the US Equity cost the fund 70 bps. Our neutral weight exposure to Japan added 65 bps because of stock picking. The option overlay strategy, maintained to protect against sharp and unexpected market downturns, cost us -76 bps in the 4th quarter with the equity market rallying strongly."
Performance Review 2011
Michael Rachor: "The underperformance of the Portfolio is explained by the extreme market situation that we were faced with in the tired quarter. The risk aversion trade was back with doubts about global economic health and the euro crisis the main reasons for investors´ fears. Stock with low valuations (typically the stocks this Portfolio invests in) were sold on a broad basis, with investors typically attributing a higher risk to these holdings. We choose these particular value stocks because we want to avoid investing in stocks that we believe have a premium to comparable stocks. History has shown that this valuation gap is mean reverting in a rolling 3 to 5 year period.
Historically these ´flight to quality´ rallies tend to be short lived and we expect this underperformance to correct over the coming quarter. Finally, this situation is very similar to 2008 when the Portfolio underperformed and then recovered (more than the lost performance) in 2009 when the market regained some poise.
Markets recovered significantly during the final quarter of the year benefiting many of the holdings within the Portfolio. In addition, we increased our weighting in the US –which has outperformed the European market during 2011 and this has helped performance."
Performance 2012 - Year-to-Date
Michael Rachor: "Taking A share data - the portfolio produced a return of 4.09% versus a bmk return of 4.14%. The rally during January was supportive of the portfolio with volatility falling and as a result risk assets appreciating across the board. Stock selection provided about 50bps of positive attribution which was partly offset by the put protection which detracted 20bps. At sector level, we had positive attribution from Industrials and Energy while being underweight Financials cost the portfolio during the month as the sector was a key beneficiary of the improvement in sentiment. The portfolio´s underweight in UK stocks detracted from performance while Euro, Chinese and Korean holdings were rewarding. Best performing stocks for the month were KBR, DELL or Autoliv."
Performance since 2007
Michael Rachor: "Our base case for economic strength favours cyclical asset classes and equities among them, as evidence of strong earnings growth should overcome recurrent risk factors. Valuations are mostly attractive, notably with dividend yields exceeding low-yielding core government bonds. We are mindful, of course, that the euro sovereign-debt crisis will darken the outlook for global economic growth amid policy mistakes that keep investors shy of risk. However, the broader risk of a recession triggered by a hard landing in emerging economies has become more remote."