Global equity has proved to be a tough hunting ground over the course of 2017, with regional ructions and country-specific shocks leading investors to look for dedicated rather than broad-brush approaches.
With 1,913 fund managers in the Citywire database operating in the wider global equity universe, fierce competition remains among those seeking to cover wide expanses with their strategies.
But who should investors be backing to find winners from around the world and to limit the idiosyncratic risks produced by country challenges?
In the nine months to the end of September 2017, the average sector manager returned 17.7% in US dollar terms, which is low relative to other equity sectors but still a return many investors would be happy to take in a low growth world.
Meanwhile, over the same period, the most-commonly held benchmark, the FTSE World TR USD, narrowly outpaced the average peer with a rise of 23.7%. However, which managers have gone above and beyond this level of return over this relatively short spell?
Schwarz, Vogel & Herbst, MainFirst
Total return (December 2016-September 2017): 46.7%
The MainFirst trio of Frank Schwarz, Patrick Vogel and Jan-Christoph Herbst have powered to the top of the leaderboard in 2017 with a return that is almost exactly double that of the index. This is while producing outperformance that is almost three times what investors can expect from their average competitor.
Schwarz and Vogel – who are both currently Citywire AA-rated – have co-run the Luxembourg-domiciled fund since it was launched in March 2013. Herbst is not rated as he was only added to the portfolio at the start of last year and lacks the necessary track record.
The €171 million fund has a strong emphasis on technology, with IT stocks accounting for eight of the top 10 positions in the latest available factsheet. The largest single position is a 4.8% exposure to US group Nvidia, while tech as a whole makes up 46.5% of assets. This compares to a 16% index weight.
This tech bias does not bring with it an over-emphasis on US equity, with the trio significantly underweight there. They have 35.9% invested in the US against 58.9% in the benchmark, with home bias coming through in a major overweight to Germany instead. Other key markets are Japan, China and France.
Recent changes in the fund have seen the trio open a minor position in Japanese robotics company Fanuc, which was financed by taking profits in internet advertising company Crieto, lab testing specialist Eurofins Scientific and automotive supplier Valeo.