10 fund managers making a mark in our performance ratings

Managers moving up our ratings and favoured by advisers featured in our magazine

Fadi Al-Said and Walid Mourad: AAA rated

Sector: Equity - Middle East & North Africa

Fund: Lazard MENA

Fund size: £25 million

Fadi Al-Said has been managing money in this sector for more than a decade. He started out at ING before moving to Lazard Asset Management, and has been consistently rated since 2017.

Co-manager Walid Mourad has also been consistently rated since last year, when he became eligible for a Citywire rating on this fund, which he joined in 2014.

The fund is modest in size but for any advisers looking at the Middle East and North Africa, these managers have topped the peer group worldwide over three years. This sector will not be everyone’s cup of tea, due to political instability and the proliferation of energy stocks in the funds. A broader emerging market or frontier portfolio tends to be the preferred method of diversifying away this risk.

Fadi Al-Said and Walid Mourad: AAA rated

Sector: Equity - Middle East & North Africa

Fund: Lazard MENA

Fund size: £25 million

Fadi Al-Said has been managing money in this sector for more than a decade. He started out at ING before moving to Lazard Asset Management, and has been consistently rated since 2017.

Co-manager Walid Mourad has also been consistently rated since last year, when he became eligible for a Citywire rating on this fund, which he joined in 2014.

The fund is modest in size but for any advisers looking at the Middle East and North Africa, these managers have topped the peer group worldwide over three years. This sector will not be everyone’s cup of tea, due to political instability and the proliferation of energy stocks in the funds. A broader emerging market or frontier portfolio tends to be the preferred method of diversifying away this risk.

Nick Williamson: AAA rated

Sector: Equity - UK Smaller Companies

Fund: Merian UK Smaller Companies Focus

Fund size: £1.2 billion

Merian Global Investors manager Nick Williamson became eligible for his first Citywire rating in January 2019. Having started managing the fund three years ago, he has come in straight at AAA, ranking first decile over three years.

Despite being an aggressive pick, Williamson’s calls have paid off, as the fund has significantly outperformed its benchmark since the end of 2016.

Throughout the Brexit uncertainty, Williamson has stuck by his top holdings: artisanal soft drinks business Fever-Tree, which comprises 4.1% of the fund despite its slight share price tumble at the start of the year; and pharmaceutical company Clinigen, which comprises 3.4%. He also holds fashion company Boohoo, which last week announced a 50% rise in sales, and which investment bank Liberum said was ‘undeservedly’ de-rated over the past 18 months.

Ben GriffithsFadi Al-Said: AA rated

Sector: Equity - European Small & Medium Companies

Fund: T. Rowe European Smaller Companies Equity

Fund size: £204 million

Ben Griffiths is receiving his first rating this year. Griffiths’ European equity fund has outperformed, despite its 3.7% overweight to Germany being the biggest detractor to returns in the fourth quarter of last year. Worries about the slowing down of the German economy have been a factor in this wound to returns.

On the flip side, Griffiths is 1.6% underweight France, following the disruption from the yellow vest protests in the country. The fund is also underweight Switzerland by 3.7%, and 5.9% underweight in financials. Swiss banks have had a tough time of late, as negative interest rates eat into profits and the housing market looks unsteady. For a fund in a naturally risky asset class, Griffiths is relatively cautious compared with the peer group.

Richard Power: AAA rated

Sector: Equity - UK Smaller Companies

Fund: FP Octopus UK Micro Cap Growth

Fund size: £33 million

Small caps took as big a battering as anyone last year. The Numis Smaller Companies plus AIM (-Inv Trust), which is a good proxy for this fund, fell 15.8%, but over five years it is up 18.8%.

It highlights the opportunities for medium-to-long-term returns for those with the appetite for risks presented by unproven companies. Volatility at the end of 2018 meant the fund fell 6.1% in December, compared with the benchmark’s 5.2% decline. This is respectable considering the size of some of the early stage companies it invests in.

Power and the fund’s other managers claim good news from these companies is not translating into share price increases. A chilling effect for the UK-focused fund is the Brexit crisis. The fund euphemistically states ‘visibility of political stability would be most welcome’.

Sophie Earnshaw: A rated

Sector: Equity - Greater China

Fund: Baillie Gifford Greater China

Fund size: £94 million

The saying goes: ‘when the USA sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.’ But for over a decade, the world has been watching China’s health. Last month, China confirmed its slowest growth rate in 28 years. The fourth quarter GDP figures were worse than expected, and it is bad news for everyone.

A defensive approach might be the way to play selecting a domestic China manager, although if you think the impact of Chinese growth funds has been overdone, this is a pick to consider. The fund is holding what it describes as tech ‘behemoths’ such as internet companies Alibaba (9.9%) and Tencent (9.8%). These stocks are indeed huge companies, but both took a hit in 2018. The fund’s total return puts it in the third quartile. The managers have an annualised standard deviation (read volatility) of 19.1% over the past three years, placing them at 76 of 97 managers globally.

Sophia Li: + rated

Sector: Equity - Japan

Fund: First State Japan Focus

Fund size: £48 million

Japan’s economy has performed worse than expected. The end of last year was characterised by slowdowns in a range of areas from industrial production to retail, accompanied by a rise in unemployment.

Inflation expectations have softened, and the Bank of Japan has held interest rates. The yen has strengthened, as is typically the case when economic news worsens, so the safe-haven currency could provide a little hedge to investors.

Also on the horizon is the 2020 Olympics. While expensive for host countries, the games usually lift sentiment and give local businesses a boost, however fleetingly. Sophia Li is not taking a strong view on the macroeconomic environment, but admits investor sentiment has taken a hit. One stock she describes as safe in volatile markets is Unicharm, which makes disposable nappies.

Tom Naughton: A rated 

Sector: Equity - Asia Pacific ex Japan

Fund: Prusik Asian Equity Income

Fund size: £667.7 million

Tom Naughton re-entered Citywire’s ratings in January. He held a consistent AAA rating for three years from 2014 to 2017. The Prusik Asian Equity Income fund may be a safe choice for Asia equity investors, with consistent outperformance coupled with low volatility and a large market share. This may hold true particularly as Asia Pacific manufacturing takes a tumble.

At 37.3% of the fund, Naughton is overweight the benchmark’s 11.7% in Hong Kong, whose stocks have been delivering juicy returns, compared with those that are domestically listed. A top holding, for example, at 5.8%, is CK Hutchinson Holdings, a Hong Kong-headquartered conglomerate comprising telecoms, infrastructure, ports, retail and energy holdings.

Denny Fish: A rated

Sector: Equity - Technology

Fund: Janus Henderson Global Technology

Fund size: £827.5 million

In the last quarter of 2018, when most stocks took a hit, the technology sector was among the weakest performers. Preparing for the fourth quarter’s weakness Denny Fish, and his co-manager Garth Yettick, positioned their portfolio to reduce its exposure to large-cap internet names.

The diversification of the portfolio, with investments in companies outside the technology sector, helped bolster performance. However, these companies still have technology deeply ingrained in their business models, such as real estate investment trusts that operate mobile phone masts.

The fund has more than 64% allocated to information technology, which makes up 100% of the index. Among the fund’s top 10 holdings are household names such as Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Alibaba.

Quynh Le Yen: A rated

Sector: Equity - Emerging Markets Asia

Fund: Vietnam Equity (Ucits)

Fund size: £71.1 million

Despite the international stock market turmoil over the past year, with the impact of the US trade war with China being felt across different economies, Vietnam has fared fairly well. The South Asian country’s economy got off to a good start in 2019, after experiencing a 7.1% growth in gross domestic product last year.

For most of 2018 Quynh Le Yen was consistently rated A, which she lost in December. However, over a three-year period, she has ranked first in the Asia emerging markets sector. So it is no surprise she regained her A rating in January.

The Vietnam Equity (Ucits) fund, which she started managing in 2013, is diversified across a variety of sectors, with the highest allocation to the food and beverage sector at just over 16%. In this sector, her largest investment is in Vinh Hoan, a seafood processing company.

Tim Crockford: A rated

Sector: Equity - Europe ex-UK

Fund: Hermes Europe ex-UK Equity

Fund size: £203.9 million

In November 2018 we published the winners of Worthstone’s first ever impact awards for sustainable investing. Winning the award for new product launch, collective investment, was A-rated Tim Crockford for his new Hermes Impact Opportunities Equity fund.

‘Initially, it was hard to convince people of our dual mandate of impact with market-beating returns. But it has been easier than we thought,’ Crockford said.

As this fund has only been running a year, Crockford has received his A rating for the Hermes Europe ex-UK Equity fund. Good returns come at the cost of high volatility with this fund, which is overweight the benchmark in Germany by 33% to 19.8%. Worries about the slowdown of the country’s economy pervaded at the end of last year and there are few signs of impending improvement.

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Related Fund Managers

David Pinniger
David Pinniger
1/7 in Equity - Biotechnology (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 60.72%
Denny Fish
Denny Fish
11/24 in Equity - Technology (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 109.58%
Ben Griffiths
Ben Griffiths
25/69 in Equity - European Small & Medium Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 39.09%
Quynh Le Yen
Quynh Le Yen
1/14 in Equity - Emerging Markets Asia (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 71.32%
Nigel Ashfield
Nigel Ashfield
2/14 in Property - UK Physical (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 22.43%
Richard Power
Richard Power
3/54 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 66.84%
Nick Williamson
Nick Williamson
1/54 in Equity - UK Smaller Companies (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 72.35%
Walid Mourad
Walid Mourad
1/12 in Equity - Middle East & North Africa (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 76.55%
Fadi Al-Said
Fadi Al-Said
2/12 in Equity - Middle East & North Africa (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 76.55%
Tim Crockford
Tim Crockford
11/103 in Equity - Europe Excluding UK (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 44.16%
Sophia Li
Sophia Li
10/40 in Equity - Greater China (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 64.84%
Sophie Earnshaw
Sophie Earnshaw
5/40 in Equity - Greater China (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 72.52%
Tom Naughton
Tom Naughton
33/151 in Equity - Asia Pacific Excluding Japan (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 57.11%
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