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Flexible equity exposure in challenging markets

Investors value flexibility in volatile markets. Françoise Rochette, fund manager of the Mandarine Reflex, aims to invest 90 percent of the assets in equity growth and value strategies while limiting their downside in adverse environments by hedging to achieve an equity exposure of 0-60 percent overall. Managers | 29.08.2014 01:00 Uhr
Françoise Rochette, fund manager of the Mandarine Reflex
Françoise Rochette, fund manager of the Mandarine Reflex
e-fundresearch.com: Mrs. Françoise Rochette, you are the fund manager of the Mandarine Reflex fund (ISIN: FR0010756544), along with your 2 colleagues Ludovic Dufour and Thomas Vlieghe. When did you take over the responsibility of managing this fund? 

Francoise Rochette: Well, basically we have been responsible for the asset allocation of the fund since its inception in June 2009, first at Edmond de Rothschild Asset Allocation, where we had a partnership with Mandarine Gestion regarding the management of the asset allocation elements of the Mandarine Reflex fund, and since spring 2013, when we joined Mandarine Gestion, the entire fund management including both the stock picking and the asset allocation are dealt with at Mandarine. e-fundresearch.com: What is the current size of the fund? 

Francoise Rochette: As per end of July 2014, the fund assets were 220 million euros.

e-fundresearch.com: Do you also manage other funds or mandates? (If yes) What is the total amount of assets you manage currently?

Francoise Rochette: Apart from Mandarine Reflex, we also manage a multi-asset multi-strategy fund, Mandarine Multistrategies, which has an international focus. This fund includes our strongest convictions in terms of asset classes, regions, etc. with a strong volatility control element. Major performance drivers are directional and relative value strategies, dividend futures as well as some short-term investment grade bonds. This fund was launched in November 2013 only, it currently has 20 million euros under management.

e-fundresearch.com: How long have you been in the business as a fund manager? 

Francoise Rochette: I am an actuary by training and started my career in asset management as a bond fund manager at AGF then at Fimagest. I then broadened my focus and headed the diversified and tactical asset allocation team at AGF AM, before joining EdRAM as head of their Asset Allocation 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? 

Francoise Rochette: The fund combines the stock picking expertise of Mandarine Gestion in European equities and the Asset Allocation know-how of my team, which are also the two major sources of valued added for our investors. In fact, the fund is fully invested in European equities but the equity risk, measured by the equity exposure is much more limited, since we wanted to create a “prudent”, reactive and flexible equity asset allocation product which can easily adapt to changing market conditions. For this reason, we have decided to set the equity exposure within a range of between 0% and 60%, depending on our view on the markets. We use listed and highly liquid derivatives on European indices, mainly futures and options.

e-fundresearch.com: How many positions does the portfolio usually contain and what is the average holding period of an investment? 

Francoise Rochette: A major source of performance of Mandarine Reflex being its combination of Mandarine’s various European equity styles, including both value and growth strategies as well as small and mid caps, the overall number of equity holdings typically amounts to 120. We as the asset allocators do not interfere with the selection, we set the weightings of these strategies, and of course the overall equity exposure. In terms of the underlying equity strategies, the holdings can be in the portfolio for some weeks only or for years, depending on their price increase potential, the news flow, their growth potential, etc. An average holding period is therefore hard to determine and would not necessarily give a representative picture.

e-fundresearch.com: To which extent does fund size impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your investment strategy? 

Francoise Rochette: To a large extent, the fund is invested in equities with a market capitalization of more than €1bn, apart from the small and mid caps, which tend to make up a smaller percentage of the investments made. And with respect to derivatives, we exclusively use listed derivatives on major indices, which means that there is no size problem either.
For this reason, size is not really a stumbling stone for the fund’s performance.

e-fundresearch.com: In which market environment does your investment strategy deliver the best (relative) results? 

Francoise Rochette: The fund’s performance being driven by both the underlying equities’ performance and our choices in Asset Allocation, a positive market environment for equities is certainly a positive influence! But a high degree of visibility with respect to the overall macroeconomic environment makes our choices in terms of the determination of the equity risk exposure much easier and is therefore generally beneficial to the fund’s performance.

e-fundresearch.com: Which benchmark is most relevant and how should investors compare the fund vs. benchmarks or peer groups?

Francoise Rochette: To be perfectly honest, the fund does not have a benchmark, since we aim at a positive performance in all or almost all market environments. The fund is generally included in a category of “diversified”, “mixed” or other asset allocation funds, although these categories tend to be very diverse and include funds with very different investment styles and risk profiles. This is an important element for us, since Mandarine Reflex tends to work like a buffer, it allows investors to participate in positive equity markets while limiting their downside in adverse environments, translating into a volatility level which is approximately 50% of equity markets. Roughly speaking, the fund can be compared to a composite benchmark consisting of 30% European equities as measured by the Stoxx600Dr index plus 70% EONIA, since the average equity exposure is 30% (the average of the 0% / 60% range).

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? 

Francoise Rochette: The fund was created in June 2009 and its performance looks as follows:

e-fundresearch.com: What motivates you in your job? 

Francoise Rochette: The ongoing and permanent market developments and the feeling of being at the heart of major changes, both political, technological and of course financial. 

e-fundresearch.com: Which other profession would you have considered apart from becoming a fund manager? 

Francoise Rochette: Initially I wanted to be a maths teacher but then, in my third year at university I changed my mind and switched to actuary studies. 

e-fundresearch.com: Thank you!

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