Victor Verberk: In January 2008 I joined Robeco to manage the ECB fund and head the IG Credit team. I wanted to make some changes and make a change, as together with Sander Bus who heads the Credit team, I initiated the implementation of a split in responsibilities between portfolio managers and credit analysts during 2008.
e-fundresearch.com: Which benchmark do you adhere to?
Victor Verberk: Our fund is actively managed against the Barclays Euro-Aggregate: Corporates (EUR) index. Barclays indices are the market standard, as they are transparent and offer us excellent online data availability. Furthermore, our advanced and proprietary risk management tools are developed in close cooperation with the team behind the leading Barclays POINT system, and is definitely beneficial that our risk management tool uses the same data input as our benchmark provider.
e-fundresearch.com: Are you also responsible for other funds at the moment?
Victor Verberk: As head Investment Grade Credits, and co-head of the Credits team, and of course with our team of portfolio managers, I am also responsible for Robeco’s other investment grade credit funds, which includes a corporate credit bonds fund where financials are excluded, as well as a fund that mainly invest in subordinated financial bonds. Finally we run a sustainable credits fund, which is basically managed in line with the ECB fund, but which selects per sector only bonds from the most sustainable issuers in that sector.
e-fundresearch.com: What is the total volume that you manage in all your funds?
Victor Verberk: Including for instance mandates for insurers and pension funds, we are responsible for the around EUR 20 billion we manage in investment grade credits bonds.
e-fundresearch.com: Regarding the performance: which performance did you achieve since the beginning of the year and in the years 2007-2011? Absolutely and relatively to the relevant benchmark?
Victor Verberk: During 2008 Robeco invested in the credit team, with a focus on Investment Grade. At that time, a clear split in responsibilities was made between portfolio managers and credit analysts and the high yield and investment grade teams were combined. After 2008 being a difficult transition year, with the portfolio being turned around, a new team being set up, and investing in new hires, January 1, 2009 marks the start of the track record generated by the new team set-up. This can be seen in the performance table, as in ’09, ’10 as well as in ’11, we outperformed and we are heading the peer rankings. Also year-to-date 2012 we are doing very well again, and over this period since 2009 we have seen both up and down markets.
Robeco Euro Credit Bonds DH share, Gross of fees, based on Net Asset Value; All figures in EUR.
January 1, 2009 marks the start of the track record generated by the new team set-up after a transition year in 2008
Source: Robeco Global Performance Measurement. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Results obtained in the past are no guarantee for the future
e-fundresearch.com: How content are you with your own performance in the last years and this year?
Victor Verberk: As said, since the new team set-up was in place in early 2009, performance has been exceptionally good as can be seen in the table. On a three-year base, the annualized outperformance is 2.24 %. That said we have to stay humble and keep up the really hard work to stay where we are.
e-fundresearch.com: How are you able to deliver added value for your investors with your performance?
Victor Verberk: We apply a strict top-down outlook, combined with best in class credit research. To my opinion, that’s the only recipe for outperformance. For that we need, and indeed have good people with a mentality to perform. And thus outperform. What our investors also value is the level of our client service, including written texts; outlooks etcetera. Just as the outperformance, it is appreciated a lot.
e-fundresearch.com: How long have you been a fund manager already?
Victor Verberk: Since 1997, when I started in the industry. Prior to joining Robeco in 2008, I have been CIO with Holland Capital Management. Before that I was employed by Mn Services as Head of Fixed Income and have worked for AXA Investment Managers as Portfolio Manager Credits.
e-fundresearch.com: What were your biggest successes and your biggest disappointments in your career as fund manager?
Victor Verberk: What has disappointed me in the industry before is that only now at Robeco, for the first time, I have found an employer that gives time to build a team and track record. Our industry is way too much focused on short-term results. Also before Robeco, my results have always been good, but now I feel we get the time to leverage on the quality of the team for many years. The success of our current team is certainly one of the biggest successes. The combination of so many smart analysts, portfolio managers and quantitative researchers who drive both the learning curve and our passion to perform that is a very stimulating environment.
e-fundresearch.com: What kind of capital market situation do we have at the moment? How do you act in this environment?
Victor Verberk: We are in balance sheet recession. This means too much debt had been built up in the private sector, and of course this also holds for some governments as well. The reaction of rebalancing leads to slow growth, no imminent inflationary threats and occasionally to restructurings. Banks are deleveraging, so we need to pay special attention to trading and managing in- and outflows in the fund, as the investment bank-brokers have lower bond inventory to trade. One has to be contrarian these days and timely make portfolio switches. A fortunate side effect from which we have been profiting, and continue to do so, is that as banks reduce their balance sheets, bonds issued by banks become more scarce, helping the performance of the fund.
e-fundresearch.com: What are the special challenges in this environment?
Victor Verberk: Markets are for an important part driven by politics and central bank policies, so understanding policy makers is important. We monitor policy makers’ actions, and the interactions with politicians than can become complacent, after for instance the ECB takes action. This cycle seems to unwind faster and faster. But each crisis gets us a step closer to the solution. Over the past years, politicians have been behind the curve all the time and only seem to act when markets panic. It has been critical to be aware and be ahead of these cycles.
e-fundresearch.com: What objectives do you have till the end of the year and in the mid term for the upcoming 3 to 5 years? Victor Verberk: In the difficult times ahead, we want to continue to outperform with our team and service our clients to help them get through it.
e-fundresearch.com: Do you model yourself on someone? Any ideals?
Victor Verberk: No, as a quite rational and down-to-earth person, I do not style myself on role models.
e-fundresearch.com: What motivates you in your job?
Victor Verberk: Competition and ambition form part of my character. My current role is a great challenge, which makes it the best job in the world. I enjoy working together with a great team, which pushes me too higher levels.
e-fundresearch.com: What else do you want to achieve or do you have any further aims as a fund manager?
Victor Verberk: I want to carefully build the credit business to become an even stronger power house within Robeco. In my opinion this crucially depends on servicing and bringing performance for our clients, for which we have the right set-up in place, with a great team of portfolio managers, on par with a sizable and seasoned team of career analysts. So we are confident that we achieve these ambitions. The challenge is to capitalize on increasing experience, while keep learning from colleagues or good study materials such as books.
e-fundresearch.com: What other profession would you have taken interest in, apart from becoming a fund manager?
Victor Verberk: That would have to be professional sports: love speed skating, soccer, and volleyball. It comes back to competition and ambition as well.
e-fundresearch.com: Many Thanks!