Many fund managers would probably argue that the ‘super cycle’ (2002-2007) was a great period compared to the subsequent years that followed the global financial crisis, often referred to as the ‘low growth environment’ (2008 to-date).
If we take a look at open ended funds invested in European large caps, for example, 45% of portfolio managers outperformed their benchmark during the super cycle1, but by a small margin (average 1.37% p.a.) and by taking comparatively high market risk (average beta of 1.05)2. The percentage of outperforming open-ended funds significantly shrank during the ‘low growth environment’3 to only 29%. Their outperformance was more significant (2.17% p.a.) and achieved with lower market risk (average beta of 0.97)4. This data suggests that it can be a rewarding strategy to outperform over a full boom and bust period by making the difference during the bust, especially when adjusting for risk.
Comgest’s Pan-European Equity strategy (a/k/a “Rep. Acct.”)5 has outperformed in this way over the 2003-2013 time period. Comgest’s large cap European portfolio participated in the upswing of the ‘super cycle’, but generated strong relative performance in the ‘low growth environment’.
This pattern of outperformance mirrors our quality growth approach and its capacity to deliver earnings growth, that is less sensitive to the economic cycle. The autonomous growth path of quality growth companies6, which is generally driven by microeconomic success factors and megatrends, should allow them to grow earnings even when economic growth is weak or negative. This makes them resilient to economic downturns, mostly coinciding with equity bear markets. Quality growth companies also tend to participate in the earnings upside embedded in economic upswings, but less so then companies geared to the economic cycle.