The negotiations for the UK's departure from the European Union have been ongoing since June and are likely to dominate headlines right up to the deadline in March 2019.
With a number of fund managers – notably Eric Bendahan and Nicolas Walewski – launching dedicated Europe ex. UK equity funds to capitalise on the disparity between the UK and continental Europe, there is likely to be increased focus on these types of funds in the future.
But who is already proving themselves adept at dealing with this specialist area of the equity market? Citywire currently tracks 120 fund managers in the Equity – Europe ex. UK sector who have a minimum of one year's experience, while 74 can boast five years of track record.
Looking at those with five years under their belt, who has proved to be a consistent outperformer? Only one Citywire-tracked manager has beaten his average peer in every 12-month performance period between October 2012 and October 2017.
James Sym, Schroders
Five-year total return (October 2012-October 2017): 120.75%
Best year of outperformance vs average: 13.5%
Citywire AA-rated James Sym stands out for his strong outperformance over the past five years. The bulk of his longevity comes from the Schroder European Alpha fund, which he has managed since May 2012. He was then handed responsibility for the Schroder European Alpha Plus fund in June 2014.
More recently, Sym assumed a role on the Schroder ISF European Alpha Focus fund, but this sits within the broader European equity sector, rather than the Europe ex. UK equity market. He co-runs that fund with James Rutland.
In the £412 million (€467 million) Schroder European Alpha fund, Sym focuses mainly on financials, with a 35.1% allocation. That compares with a 23.1% benchmark bet. At a country level, he is marginally overweight Germany, while steering clear of France – he holds almost half the index's weighting to the country.
The fund operates on a high conviction basis with just 38 holdings. At 5.1%, Dutch telecoms group KPN is the fund's single largest exposure. Sym operates with a pronounced emphasis on large-cap stocks, with 78% of the fund exposed to companies with a market cap in excess of €3 billion.
For his absolute numbers, Sym sits fourth out of 74 managers in this sector over five years and has shown resilience even during periods of market difficulty. For example, between October 2015 and October 2016, Sym lost 2.6%, which compares favourably with the average manager's loss of 3.75% over the same timeframe.