e-fundresearch.com: What is the current size of the fund?
Gershon Distenfeld: At the end of February the fund had an AUM of USD25.4 billion.
e-fundresearch.com: Do you also manage other funds or mandates?
Gershon Distenfeld: I also manage dedicated US High Yield Accounts, European High Yield Accounts and Global High Yield Accounts, as well as high yield securities in broad multi-sector portfolios such as Core Plus.
e-fundresearch.com: What is the total amount of assets you manage currently?
Gershon Distenfeld: Across the US, European and Global high yield accounts like the AUM I oversee is around USD32 billion. This is done in closely collaboration with our expert team of portfolio managers and analysts.
e-fundresearch.com: How long have you been in the business as a fund manager?
Gershon Distenfeld: I have 16 years’ investment experience, having joined ACMBernstein’s New York fixed income team back in 1998. Prior to that I was an operations analyst at Lehman Brothers’ emerging-market team.
e-fundresearch.com: What are the main steps in your investment process and in which area is your competitive edge to add value to investors?
Gershon Distenfeld: Having a global high yield portfolio provides diversification and enables us to search out and invest in a wide-range of issuers. We follow a disciplined investment process incorporating diverse sources of alpha. Our unique combination of quant and fundamental research is based on our large global team of credit analysts, economists and quant specialists analyzing two-thirds of high yield issuers, the economies of over 60 countries and the investment environment for setting risk targets.
We take a dynamic multi-sector approach with the flexibility to go beyond the sub-investment-grade corporate bond universe into any high-yielding issues or sectors that offer an opportunity to enhance risk-adjusted returns. We believe this flexibility is crucial. History shows that no country or sector wins all the time. We are agile to shift positions quickly and efficiently as opportunities and risks change, but stick to our fundamental belief that there is a strong case for having a long-term allocation to high yield.
We see our key advantages as being: ACMBernstein has been a global leader in high yield investing for decades. We introduced our first US High Yield Strategy in 1986 and launched this Global High Yield Portfolio in 1997. The fund has a stable and experienced investment team consisting of Douglas Peebles, Paul DeNoon and myself, supported by portfolio managers and analysts that focus on Emerging Market Debt, Global High Yield, Global Government bonds and Global Credit.
Our Fundamental and Quantitative Research approach, as described above, is well tested. Our Dynamic Investment Process analysis of the prevailing risk/reward environment enables us to dynamically adjust the portfolio risk. Our single, globally-integrated research and portfolio management platform gives us a comprehensive perspective into every investment decision and allows us to leverage the ‘best thinking’ across all client portfolios.
e-fundresearch.com: Which benchmark is most relevant and how should investors compare the fund vs. benchmarks or peer groups?
Gershon Distenfeld: The custom blended benchmark comprised of: 33% Barclays Capital High Yield, 2% Constrained, 33% JP Morgan GBI-EM, 33% JP Morgan EMBI-Global, reflecting our broad, multi-sector approach to investing. However, our portfolio construction process is benchmark agnostic as we believe clients should compare use against the peer group.
e-fundresearch.com: Which performance did you achieve for the fund YTD and over the past five calendar years in absolute terms and relative to relevant benchmark or other reference indices?
Gershon Distenfeld: At the end of February the YTD return was 1.6% vs. a 0.1% benchmark increase and a 0.5% increase of the Lipper Global High Yield bond group. Over a 5 year period the fund returned 8.9% vs. a benchmark gain of 9.3% and 6.4% for the Lipper peer-group.
e-fundresearch.com: What motivates you in your job?
Gershon Distenfeld: I really enjoy working as part of a team of smart and talented people, analyzing and constructing the best investment solutions for our clients. Since many clients live off of the income generated by our funds, our decisions directly impact their lives.
e-fundresearch.com: Which other profession would you have considered apart from becoming a fund manager?
Gershon Distenfeld: Outside of the world of fund management I would have enjoyed a job using quantitative techniques to assess sporting talent and optimize game strategies in professional sports. Specifically, I would have loved a job with the New York Jets, one of the leading American Football teams, but would be open to offers from other teams as well!
e-fundresearch.com: Many Thanks!