The year 2016 was challenging for all European investors, with the UK referendum, Italian banking instability and growing concerns over election-led volatility in the coming year causing uncertainty.
However, there were a handful of specialist investors in the region who prospered despite their peers losing their heads.
Zeroing in on the managers operating dedicated dividend-focused funds, there are currently 74 fund managers operating in the European equity income sector.
Over the past 12 months, the average of these lost 8.6% in euro terms, while the most commonly held benchmark, the MSCI Europe High Dividend TR, dropped 6.7% over the same timeframe.
While the managers listed below may not have blown out the lights in performance terms, the improvement on their standing over the period November 2014-November 2015 is considerable with these investors each rising more than 50 places up the rankings.
Frank Schorling & Golo Feige, Credit Suisse
- Ranking period one (November 2014-November 2015): 58/68
- Ranking period two (November 2015-November 2016): 5/74
The Credit Suisse duo are the third most-improved managers with a rise of 53 places from where they sat towards the end of 2015. Frank Schorling, who has been on the Germany-domiciled fund since its launch in December 2007, was joined by Golo Feige in the summer of 2014.
On a one-year basis, the pair lost 2.6% in euro terms but, as stated above, this was a stronger return than either the sector average manager or the index. According to the latest factsheet for the €45 million fund, the duo invest mainly in financials (21.8%) and industrials (20.3%).
At a country level, the pair are primarily focused on German investments, with these accounting for more than one-quarter of overall exposure. This is while running a notable underweight to Great Britain. Here they have 20.2% of exposure, which compares to a 32.7% index allocation.
Rupert Welchman, UBP
- Ranking period one (November 2014-November 2015): 65/68
- Ranking period two (November 2015-November 2016): 7/74
Pipping the Credit Suisse pair into second place is Union Bancaire Privée’s Rupert Welchman. Boasting nearly 20 year’s market experience, Welchman has overcome a difficult year at the helm of the UBAM Europe Equity Dividend fund to now sit within the top 10 performers.
Welchman is recognised on this fund separately from co-manager Scott Meech, with both having overseen the fund since its launch, as Meech is attached to other funds also operating in the European equity income sector, which impacts his overall ranking.
On the €63 million UBAM Europe Equity Dividend fund, Welchman and Meech also focus on financials, which accounts for 21.6% of exposure. This is ahead of consumer staples (14%) and telecoms (12.4%). It has a strong emphasis on large-cap stocks, which account for over 90% of investments, according to the October data.
Philippa Clough, JPM
- Ranking period one (November 2014-November 2015): 67/68
- Ranking period two (November 2015-November 2016): 2/74
Having topped the analysis when undertaken over the summer, the JPM pairing of Nicholas Horne and Philippa Clough have continued to improve. However, Horne stepped down from the fund towards the end of 2015, which means he is only partly represented in this analysis.
The €51.2 million fund has been overseen by the trio since November 2013, with third manager Thomas Buckingham having joined in January 2015, which is why he is not included in this analysis. However, the most recent fund data does not list Nicholas Horne as a manager.
The duo are among the rare performers in the sector to have achieved a positive return over the past 12 months, delivering 0.51% in euro terms, which comes against the 8.6% average manager loss.