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Through boom and doom, consistency is at our core

Hermes Global Equities

Home / Perspectives / Through boom and doom, consistency is at our core

Geir Lode, Head of Hermes Global Equities

Launching our core global equity product in the depths of the financial crisis, and investing throughout subsequent market shocks and surges, tested our ability to meet the commitment we made to investors from the outset: to generate consistent, compounding outperformance for the long term.

Since its December 2008 inception, a period beginning with the tumult of the financial crisis and ending with the bullish US ‘Trump trade’, the Hermes Global Equity Fund has achieved its objective: to generate 2%-3% net annualised outperformance of its benchmark, the MSCI World Index, over rolling three-year periods (see figure 1).

This 2.4% net annualised outperformance is reinforced by other evidence that the Fund offers a robust proposition: strong risk-adjusted returns, skilful active management, prudent diversification and low turnover.

Figure 1. Eight years in numbers: key metrics for the Hermes Global Equity Fund

Relative outperformance 2.4% net, annualised
Sharpe ratio 0.8
Information ratio 1.1
Active share 76%
Tracking error 1.9
Concentration 125-200 stocks
Turnover 21.2% annualised

Source: Hermes. Performance metrics cover the period from the inception of the Fund, 5 December 2008, to 31 October 2016, with the exception of turnover, which covers the five years to 31 October 2016.  Currency is USD.  The value of investments and income from them may go down as well as up, and you may not get back the original amount invested. Targets cannot be guaranteed.

In seeking to achieve our long-term objective, we aim to regularly outperform our benchmark by a small margin so that gains compound over time. In the 31 quarters since its launch, the Fund beat the MSCI World in 23 of them1. This consistency has been achieved in both rising and falling markets, with the Fund generating an average monthly gain of 0.19% that compounded over time to deliver substantial outperformance (see figures 2 and 3). Providing consistent,  positive relative and risk-adjusted returns throughout all investment environments is a characteristic benefit that we aim to deliver to investors.

Figure 2. Hermes Global Equity Fund: net rolling returns since inception

equitiestnfigure3

Source: Hermes as at 31 October 2016.

Figure 3. Consistent excess returns through up and down markets

  Number of months Months with excess returns Excess return Average outperformance Average underperformance Average excess return
Up markets 59 40 68.80% 0.52% -0.43% 0.22%
Down markets 37 25 67.57% 0.44% -0.43% 0.15%
Number of months 96 65 67.71% 0.49% -0.43% 0.19%

Source: Hermes as at 31 October 2016.

Rough road, smooth returns

The Fund was launched in the depths of crisis, as the Federal Reserve and other major central banks initiated immense quantitative-easing programmes to revive markets and economies. Amid such volatility, our diversified exposure enabled the Fund to adapt to multiple investment styles and cope with dramatic rotations in equity markets.

This all-weather approach was also tested by further extreme events: the euro crisis, taper tantrum, commodity-price collapse, Brexit vote, emerging-market resurgence and the rise of US President-elect Donald Trump. Our awareness of top-down risk also contributed. For instance, our proprietary risk-management system MultiFRAME revealed the Fund’s sensitivity to yen appreciation ahead of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stimulus programme. This led to our profitable exposure to Japanese exporters as Abenomics took effect.

Throughout these turbulent eight years, we remained focused on our key investment principles:

  • Pragmatism over perfection: there are no ultimate stocks, so we seek those with the best combinations of time-tested fundamentals and which are trading at attractive valuations:
    • Impressive financial statements
    • Competitive strengths
    • High-quality management
    • Good or improving ESG characteristics
  • Style agnostic: by analysing companies from a broad range of perspectives, we find high-quality stocks that perform well in different investment environments and provide a defence against large swings in style
  • Diversification: a portfolio of diverse, fundamentally strong companies ensures that our returns are driven by stock selection, not factor exposure, and helps defend against the shock of sudden shifts in market sentiment
  • Risk management: MultiFRAME provides forward-looking views of how the Fund might respond to a broad range of potential market environments
  • Long-term focus: while diversification helps protect against short-term swings in sentiment, long-term investment in attractive stocks generates strong performance. This combination underpins our consistent, positive returns

ESG matters

We believe that the environmental, social and governance characteristics of companies are fundamentally important to stock performance. This is based on our research, which shows that avoiding the most poorly governed companies can add up to 30bps each month to returns2, and our experience as investors.

We integrate ESG considerations into our investment decisions by combining best-of-breed specialist research and proprietary data, including research and engagement insights from stewardship specialist Hermes EOS, to provide a comprehensive view of companies’ ESG risk exposures – both in the present and in the future.

We perceive the trend in a company’s ESG exposure to be equally as important as the current level. For this reason, we take a forward-looking view to consider whether companies’ ESG practices are improving or worsening, and factor this into our analysis.

The importance of ESG risk encouraged us to systematically embed governance analysis into our stock-selection process alongside traditional financial measures of a company’s performance. ESG considerations are also assessed in each ‘sense check’ of a holding or potential investment, and in portfolio-level analyses of the Fund’s aggregate ESG risk exposure.

Looking ahead

To keep consistently outperforming, we must gain new and valuable insights into companies while ensuring that our current approach remains robust.

For this purpose, we have developed an analytical tool that shows where companies generate revenues around the world. We believe this is a better way of understanding the business risks that a stock is exposed to as opposed to considering its country of listing. This clear view of where companies do business also helps us ensure that we are diversified.

To better understand companies’ resilience to downside risk, we are seeking further ways to assess quality. For example, we are collaborating with the fixed-income team at Hermes to understand how a company’s credit quality indicates its ability to weather a downturn. Once this work is complete, we will consider further ways to analyse companies’ growth potential.

Such efforts ensure that we stay focused on consistently outperforming for investors. No matter what market risks or opportunities materialise in 2017 and beyond, we will firmly apply our all-weather strategy – while continuously seeking ways to improve it.

  1. 1 Source: Hermes as at 30 November 2016.
  2. 2 "ESG investing: does it make you money, or does it just make you feel good?" published by Hermes Investment Management in January 2014, and "ESG investing: it still makes you feel good, it still makes you money," published by Hermes Investment Management in September 2016.
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Geir Lode Head of Hermes Global Equities Geir Lode joined Hermes in May 2007 to establish the Global Equities strategy. Prior to this he was Chairman of Bergen Yards in Bergen, Norway, where he was responsible for restructuring and focusing a holding company. Bergen Yards changed name to Bergen Group and was listed on the Oslo stock exchange in June 2007. Geir started his career in 1991 at Frank Russell, moving to Chancellor LGT and then Putnam Investments, where he was a senior vice president before returning to Norway in 2003. Geir studied Mechanical Engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology and obtained a Master of Business Administration at the Pacific Lutheran University, Washington. Geir has been on the board of 17 companies in four different countries.
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