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Veteran Iben: momentum won’t make a fool out of me

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Veteran Iben: momentum won’t make a fool out of me

Veteran global equity investor David Iben has said recent underperformance is no cause for concern and is merely a function of his staunch anti-momentum stance.

Fielding a question regarding his year-to-date figures in a conference call, Iben said the Kopernik Global All-Cap fund had struggled so far in 2017, but he was not surprised by this at all.

In the three months to the end of March 2017, Iben’s Ucits-compliant fund returned 2.1% in US dollar terms against a rise of 6.9% by its index, the FTSE World TR USD.

‘For the bulk of the past 35 years, we have said we pick stocks and the market will make mistakes, which we will take advantage of. Now, two-thirds of the time we are on the right side of that, but sometimes the market comes round and things go against us and we don’t do well. When I look back at recent decades we tend to be anti-momentum.

‘So almost every quarter, you can go back to my time at Tradewinds and look at that data as well, we are almost top 10% or bottom 10% from quarter to quarter. There have been more top than bottom, but the bottom quarters are always bad.’

Iben, who runs the fund as a Ucits-compliant vehicle through a deal with Heptagon Capital, said he has outperformed when small cap stocks do well, whereas momentum-led growth of large-cap stocks has continually hurt him.

‘If we look back, 1999 was an unbelievably painful time followed by 12 really fun years. The second half of 2014 and late 2015 were also unbelievably painful times, so it switches. If we continue in a momentum market we will continue to look pretty foolish. But momentum always plays out. While it lasts we will be in the bottom 10% and when it turns we will be in the top 10%.

‘We don’t know but we feel pretty strongly that over the next five years our performance should be pretty good. If momentum is a sustainable thing then we are dinosaurs and people can make up their mind on that but quarters are either good or bad and we can always see good ones.’

Iben said he had made no recent changes to his strategy, which boasts $2.6 billion in assets across the Ucits vehicle, mutual funds and separate accounts.

The Heptagon Kopernik Global All-Cap Equity fund returned 37.7% in US dollar terms over the year to the end of March 2017. The average of the other 3,091 funds in the sector returned 9.9% over the same period, while the index rose 15.6%.

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