As the Hermes US All Cap Fund marks its first anniversary, our fundamental stock selection process has delivered 3.6% outperformance since launch1. Michael Russell, Portfolio Manager, Hermes Investment Management, discusses how we have combined our successful approach to small- and mid-cap investing with experience in the large-cap market to invest in quality companies with durable competitive advantages at a discount to their intrinsic value.
Hermes US All Cap performance over three-month periods, 1 June 2015 to 31 May 2016
Source: Hermes as at 31 May 2016. The performance shown is the gross performance in USD. Relative performance is calculated arithmetically. The inception date of the Fund is 29 May 2015.
Brand new ballgame: The Hermes US All Cap Fund aims to deliver excess returns by investing across the market capitalisation spectrum using the bottom-up process already established by the Hermes US SMID strategy, which has achieved one-, three- and five-year-top quartile performance. I draw on 15 years of previous experience managing US large-cap portfolios for institutional investors, combined with the team’s experience investing in US SMID equities, to identify companies that have high profitability, strong cash flows and attractive growth prospects. Linear Technology is a holding that reflects these characteristics. A leading analogue semiconductor company with 50% profit margins, it benefits from the shift to hybrid electric cars, which will require 5-10 times more semiconductor content.
The big league: The Fund is overweight stocks that have a market capitalisation between $10bn and $50bn, at the lower end of the large-cap sector. These are the companies that still have the significant growth potential that we seek in all our positions plus the advantage of scale. For example, Martin Marietta is the second-largest aggregates producer in the US and would benefit directly from any infrastructure stimulus spent on repairing the nation’s highways.
Conversely, we are underweight mega-cap companies with market capitalisations above $50bn, whose growth prospects are more limited. There are a few notable exceptions to this, like Amazon and Google, in which we hold positions. Amazon’s key markets still have plenty of scope for growth: e-commerce represents only 6% of US retail sales volumes and cloud services account for less than 1% of the global IT market.
Covering base: We leverage our experience of investing in small- and mid-cap stocks and are overweight those with a market capitalisation of between $5bn and $10bn. We intend to hold these smaller cap companies as they grow into successful large caps. More than a quarter of the Fund is invested in smaller capitalisation companies. Often these companies have assets that are difficult for competitors to replicate and are valuable to larger cap companies. This was evidenced by the takeover of Airgas, previously one of our holdings, which distributes package gas cylinders, by Air Liquide at a 50% premium to its closing price.
Heavy hitter: Our focus on company fundamentals has been reflected in our returns, with stock selection contributing 4.2% to our overall outperformance of 3.6% in the Fund’s first year. Since its May 2015 inception, the Fund has now returned 3.2% against the -0.4% loss by the Russell 3000 Total Return index2. Throughout this period, the Fund had a ex-ante beta roughly in line with the benchmark, showing that our investment process has offered excess returns without excess volatility.
Home run: In the Hermes US All Cap Fund’s first year, our established small- and mid-cap investment process has been successfully deployed in an expanded investment universe to produce substantial outperformance. With the US market exposed to immediate risks, including the outcome of the presidential election and the uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve’s policy, we will continue to use our fundamentals-driven process to look for new holdings. These companies are likely to be less dependent on economic growth but instead have long-term, structural opportunities to deliver resilient top-line growth.
Any opinions expressed may change. 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. Any investments overseas may be affected by currency exchange rates. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results and targets are not guaranteed. All figures, unless otherwise indicated, are sourced from Hermes.
- 1 Source: Hermes as at 31 May 2016. The performance shown is the gross performance in USD. Relative performance is calculated arithmetically. The inception date of the fund is 29 May 2015.
- 2 Source: Hermes as at 31 May 2016. The performance shown is the gross performance in USD. Relative performance is calculated arithmetically. The inception date of the fund is 29 May 2015.