The European small cap sector enjoyed a strong year in 2009 after suffering more than most in 2008, with the average manager returning 44% compared to a loss of 49% in the previous twelve months.
The table below shows that the manager who recorded the highest returns for the year was Ollie Beckett, who runs the Henderson HF Pan European Smaller Companies fund and delivered returns of 99.54% in the calendar year.
Behind Beckett was Erik Esselink who was second in the sector for overseeing Invesco’s Continental European Small Cap Eq and the European Small Cap funds. He finished the year with 90.5% in total returns.
Following by some margin, but still third in the sector, was David Houston who returned 73.01%. He has managed the Vontobel European M&S Cap Eq fund through two job changes at different asset management firms, but has rewarded Vontobel's decision to let him keep their mandate.
First he ran the fund on a mandate at Berenberg Bank, before the bank decided to part company with him in February last year. He then re-joined Euronova Asset Management in November, the firm he had co-founded in 2000, and took the mandate with him.
Sternbach was not the only rated manager among the year's crème de la crème. Citywire AAA-rated Lorenzo Carcano (pictured), who runs the Metzler European Smaller Companies fund, reported returns of 63.48%, to rank him fifth in the sector. As 2009 progressed, the Frankfurt-based manager reduced his exposure to cyclicals into some defensive names overlooked by the market (see interview here).