Category Archives: Funds

AMG Chicago Equity Partners Balanced Fund (MBEAX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The managers aim to provide “high total investment return, consistent with the preservation of capital and prudent economic risk.” The fund normally holds 50-75% in equities with the remainder in bonds and cash. The equity sleeve is mostly mid- to large-cap US stocks; direct foreign investment is minimal. The income sleeve is mostly high quality, intermediate-term bonds. The managers have the freedom to invest up to 25% in high-yield securities or in longer maturity bonds but, mostly, don’t.

Adviser

AMG (Affiliated Managers Group) advises Continue reading →

T. Rowe Price Global Multi-Sector Bond (PRSNX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks “high income with the potential for some capital appreciation.” Their target is to maximize total return on a risk adjusted basis through a blend of high yield and global fixed income securities. They hope to achieve that end by investing primarily in income-producing instruments including:

  • US, international and emerging country sovereign debt
  • US, international and emerging market corporate debt
  • Mortgage- and asset-backed securities
  • Bank loans
  • Convertible securities and preferred stocks.

The fund may invest entirely in dollar-denominated foreign securities; other than that, the restrictions in the prospectus come down Continue reading →

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

An “arabesque” is either a graceful move in ballet or a graceful and intricate design in art and architecture. I’ll be fascinated to see how it plays out as a fund.

American Beacon TwentyFour Strategic Income

American Beacon Twenty Four Strategic Income will seek high current income with some hope of capital appreciation. The plan is to buy income-producing … uhh, stuff. Almost any conceivable stuff, globally and Continue reading →

Intrepid International Fund (ICMIX)

By Dennis Baran

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks long-term capital appreciation by investing in an international, all-cap portfolio. The fund is non-diversified and its primary focus is on developed markets. Its strategy is benchmark-agnostic, so its country, industry and sector weightings may differ substantially from those in its benchmark index or peer group. Its process capitalizes on market disruptions, fear, and volatility to generate bargains. The fund plans to hold between 15-50 different companies, may hold substantial cash and is typically hedges its currency exposure when cost effective.

The fund is intended for Continue reading →

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

The SEC requires managers to submit plans for their new funds 75 days before they’re offered for sale to the public. This month finds 16 new funds in the pipeline. The most intriguing are the two Rondure funds, launched by a partnership between former Wasatch star manager Laura Geritz and the folks at Grandeur Peak. We wrote in December about the partnership. One of pure EM, the other global and both are positioned to hold stocks that are somewhat larger and more seasoned than we associate with Grandeur Peak. Artisan, which rarely launches a bad fund, has registered plans for its niche-est fund, Artisan Thematic, led by an experienced hedge fund guy. Continue reading →

Tributary Small Company (FOSCX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund pursues long-term capital appreciation. They invest in a portfolio of 60-70 small-cap stocks, mostly domiciled in the U.S. Their fundamental approach is value-oriented and broadly diversified across economic sectors. In general, each position in the portfolio starts out about equally weighted; 50 of the 65 current holdings are each between 1-2% of the portfolio. They hold minimal cash, currently about 4%. Portfolio turnover is in the range of 25-35%, far below the small cap average.   Continue reading →

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

You know it’s a bad month for fund registrations when the most interesting thing out there is a bad idea: The ETF Market ETF (TETF). If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “there’s nothing I want more than to be trapped investing in a very limited universe of companies, almost none of whom have enduring competitive advantages,” you can now not only invest there, you can day trade if you want. (sigh) Otherwise, year-end is a slow time in the fund launch world. Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Twenty new no-load retail funds are slated to go live by year’s end; most will first trade on December 30 so they’ll first able to report full-year results for 2017. The most immediately intriguing are Rajiv Jain’s new GQG Partners Emerging Markets Equity Fund and Osterweis Total Return., though Polen International Growth Fund has some pretty solid lineage, too. Read on!

ACR International Quality Return Fund

ACR International Quality Return Fund will seek is “to protect capital from permanent impairment while providing an absolute return above the Fund’s cost of capital and a relative return above the Fund’s benchmark over a full market cycle.” After such a build-up, it’s a letdown to report that it appears just to be a global stock fund. It will hold about 20 names, expects to keep less than a third in emerging markets and might hold some cash. Not much stands out there. The fund will be managed by Continue reading →

Fund Profile: City National Rochdale Emerging Markets Fund, (RIMIX, CNRYX)

By Dennis Baran

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks to provide long-term capital appreciation primarily by investing in locally listed large, medium, and small quality companies broadly accessible to U.S. investors within Asian Emerging Markets. The Adviser conducts on-the-ground research to provide direct insight into these companies using its domain expertise in the region, and while it may invest in companies from any emerging market country, it expects to focus its investments in Asia.

The fund is intended for long-term investors who have a time horizon of at least 5 years but preferably 7-10. It was first mentioned in the April 2015 edition of MFO as Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Ten new funds are in the queue, ready to launch somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years. Several high-profile firms are launching new funds, including DoubleLine, Northern, Osterweis and TIAA-CREF. (We also snuck in a small handful of institutional launches from AMG and AQR.)

U.S. Quality ESG strikes me as particularly interesting. Northern Trust has made a major commitment to responsible investing.  This fund will be the latest in a series of launches by Northern Trust, which has offered a global ESG index fund, Global Sustainability Index Fund (NSRIX) and added FlexShares STOXX US ESG Impact Index Fund (ESG) and FlexShares STOXX Global ESG Impact Index Fund (ESGG) on July 14, 2016. Northern’s passive products are consistently Continue reading →

Fund Profile: Mairs and Power Small Cap Fund (MSCFX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks “above-average” long-term capital appreciation by investing in 40-45 small cap stocks. For their purposes, “small caps” have a market capitalization under $3.4 billion at the time of purchase. The manager is authorized to invest up to 25% of the portfolio in foreign stocks and to invest, without limit, in convertible securities (but he plans to do neither). Across all their portfolios, Mairs & Power invests in “carefully selected, quality growth stocks” purchased “at reasonable valuation levels.” Continue reading →

Funds in Registration, September 2016

By David Snowball

It’s been a quiet month for new registrants. There’s the usual collection of trendy ETFs (e.g., Pacer US Cash Cows 100 ETF) and Mr. Greenblatt is launching more Gorham-branded institutional funds (Gotham Neutral 500 at 1.4%, Defensive Long at 2.15%, and Defensive Long 500 at 1.65%). Other than that, we found just four new no-load, retail funds. Folks interested in social impact investing might want to put Gerstein Fisher Municipal CRA Qualified Investment Fund on their radar. Low minimum, relatively low expense, it provides individual investors a tool to support affordable housing and community development. Otherwise, the new options peaked out at “meh.” Continue reading →

Fund Profile: Ariel Global (AGLOX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Ariel Global Fund’s fundamental objective is long-term capital appreciation. The manager pursues an all-cap global portfolio. The fund is, in general, currency hedged so that the returns you see are driven by stock selection rather than currency fluctuation. The manager pursues a “bottom up” discipline which starts by weeding out as much trash as humanly possible before proceeding to a meticulous investment in both the fundamentals of the remaining businesses and their intrinsic value. The fund is diversified and will generally hold 50-150 positions. As of July 2016, there are 84. Continue reading →

Fund Profile: Catalyst/MAP Global Total Return Income (TRXAX, TRXIX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The manager attempts to preserve capital while generating a combination of current income and moderate long-term capital gains. The portfolio has four sleeves:

  • 40-65 global equity positions constituting 30-70% of the portfolio depending on market conditions. Over the past five years, the range has been 54-62%.
  • Income-generating covered calls which might be sold on 0-30% of the portfolio. Of late option premiums have not justified writing.
  • Short/intermediate-term bonds, generally rated B+ or better and generally with an average maturity of approximately a year.
  • Cash, which has traditionally been 5-15% of the portfolio.

The portfolio is unconstrained by geography, credit quality or market cap. The manager is risk conscious, looking for securities that combine undervaluation with a definable catalyst which will lead the market to recognize its intrinsic value. Continue reading →

Funds in registration, August 2016

By David Snowball

Newly-proposed funds need to sit quietly for 75 days. During that time the Securities and Exchange Commission staff reviews their prospectuses and has the right to demand changes. If the SEC doesn’t object, the advisor earns the right – but not the obligation, oddly enough – to release the fund to the public. Funds currently in registration are apt to launch at the end of September so that they will be able to report complete results for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Setting aside whacko ideas (The Wearable Technology ETF? Did we learn nothing from the adventures of the 3D Printing ETF? Or the Obesity ETF?), there were 13 new no-load retail funds or active ETFs in registration this month. Continue reading →

Funds in Registration, July 2016

By David Snowball

Anchor Alternative Equity Fund

Anchor Alternative Equity Fund will pursue total with a secondary objective of limiting risk. It will be a long/short fund-of-funds investing in ETFs and mutual funds.  Here’s the key phrase: “The Fund primarily takes long and short positions in securities that are highly correlated to major US equity indices based on long, intermediate, and short term trends.” The fund will be managed by Garrett Waters of Anchor Capital Management. The initial expense ratio is 2.77%. The minimum initial investment is $2,500.

Anchor Tactical Real Estate Fund

Anchor Tactical Real Estate Fund will pursue above average total returns over a full market cycle with lower correlation and reduced risk when compared to traditional real estate indexes. It will be a long/short fund-of-funds investing in ETFs and mutual funds.  They’ll invest in real estate funds based on their analysis of trends, with the prospect of hedging against broad market declines with short ETFs. The fund will be managed by Garrett Waters of Anchor Capital Management. The initial expense ratio is 3.10%. The minimum initial investment is $2,500.

Cornerstone Core Plus Bond

Cornerstone Core Plus Bond will pursue total return, consisting of current income and capital appreciation.  The plan is to farm the work out to 12 people representings several different famous firms. The initial expense ratio is 0.49%. The minimum initial investment is $2,000 but it’s available only “to certain advisory clients of the Adviser.”

Low Beta Tactical 500 Fund

Low Beta Tactical 500 Fund will seek to outperform the S&P 500 with lower volatility than the Index.  The plan is to invest either in S&P 500 ETFs or cash based on “tactical research, analysis and evaluation regarding market trends.” The fund will be managed by Thomas Moring of LGM Capital Management. The initial expense ratio is 1.95%. The minimum initial investment hasn’t been disclosed.

Schwab Target 2060 Fund

Schwab Target 2060 Fund will pursue capital appreciation and income by investing in other Schwab and Laudus Funds.  Zifan Tang, Ph.D., CFA, a Managing Director and Head of Schwab’s Asset Allocation Strategies, is responsible for all the funds in the series. The expense ratios have not yet been released. Ironically, the funds do not carry 12b-1 fees, which are usually the price for getting carried on the Schwab platform. The funds are only open to institutional investors but for those investors the minimum investment is $100.

Schwab Target Date Index Funds

Schwab Target Date Index Fund will pursue “capital appreciation and income consistent with its current asset allocation.” These will be funds-of-ETFs which equity exposure ranging from 95% (2060) to about 40% (2010).  Zifan Tang, Ph.D., CFA, a Managing Director and Head of Schwab’s Asset Allocation Strategies, is responsible for all the funds in the series. The expense ratios have not yet been released. Ironically, the funds do not carry 12b-1 fees, which are usually the price for getting carried on the Schwab platform. The funds are only open to institutional investors but for those investors the minimum investment is $100.

Aston/River Road Independent Value (ARIVX)

By David Snowball

Update: This fund has been liquidated.

This fund was previously profiled in September 2012. You can find that profile here.

Objective

The fund seeks to provide long-term total return by investing in common and preferred stocks, convertibles and REITs. The manager attempts to invest in high quality, small- to mid-cap firms (those with market caps between $100 million and $5 billion). He thinks of himself as having an “absolute return” mandate, which means an exceptional degree of risk-consciousness. He’ll pursue the same style of investing as in his previous charges, but has more flexibility than before because this fund does not include the “small cap” name.

Adviser

Aston Asset Management, LP. It’s an interesting setup. Aston oversees 24 funds with $9.3 billion in assets, and is a subsidiary of the Affiliated Managers Group. River Road Asset Management LLC subadvises six Aston funds; i.e., provides the management teams. River Road, founded in 2005, oversees $6.1 billion and was acquired by AMG in 2014. River Road also manages seven separate account strategies, including the Independent Value strategy used here.

Manager

Eric Cinnamond. Mr. Cinnamond is a Vice President and Portfolio Manager of River Road’s independent value investment strategy. Mr. Cinnamond has 23 years of investment industry experience. Mr. Cinnamond managed the Intrepid Small Cap (ICMAX) fund from 2005-2010 and Intrepid’s small cap separate accounts from 1998-2010. He co-managed, with Nola Falcone, Evergreen Small Cap Equity Income from 1996-1998.

Management’s Stake in the Fund

Mr. Cinnamond has invested between $500,000 – $1,000,000 in the fund.

Strategy capacity

Mr. Cinnamond anticipates a soft close at about a billion. The strategy has $450 million in assets, which hot money drove close to a billion during the last market crisis.

Opening date

December 30, 2010.

Minimum investment

$2,000 for regular accounts, $1000 for various sorts of tax-advantaged products (IRAs, Coverdells, UTMAs).

Expense ratio

1.42%, after waivers, on $410 million in assets.

Comments

If James Brown is the godfather of soul, then Eric Cinnamond might be thought the godfather of small cap, absolute value investing. He’s been at it since 1996 and he suspects that folks who own lots of small cap stocks today are going to want to sell them to him, for a lot less than they paid, sooner rather than later.

This fund’s first incarnation appeared in 1996, as the Evergreen Small Cap Equity Income fund. Mr. Cinnamond had been hired by First Union, Evergreen’s advisor, as an analyst and soon co-manager of their small cap separate account strategy and fund. The fund grew quickly, from $5 million in ’96 to $350 million in ’98. It earned a five-star designation from Morningstar and was twice recognized by Barron’s as a Top 100 mutual fund.

In 1998, Mr. Cinnamond became engaged to a Floridian, moved south and was hired by Intrepid (located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida) to replicate the Evergreen fund. For the next several years, he built and managed a successful separate accounts portfolio for Intrepid, which eventually aspired to a publicly available fund.

The fund’s second incarnation appeared in 2005, with the launch of Intrepid Small Cap (now called Intrepid Endurance, ICMAX). In his five years with the fund, Mr. Cinnamond built a remarkable record which attracted $700 million in assets and earned a five-star rating from Morningstar and a Lipper Leader for total returns and capital preservation. If you had invested $10,000 at inception, your account would have grown to $17,300 by the time he left. Over that same period, the average small cap value fund lost money.

The fund’s third incarnation appeared on the last day of 2010, with the launch of Aston / River Road Independent Value (ARIVX). While ARIVX is run using the same discipline as its predecessors, Mr. Cinnamond intentionally avoided the “small cap” name. While the new fund will maintain its historic small cap value focus, he wanted to avoid the SEC stricture which would have mandated him to keep 80% of assets in small caps.

Over an extended period, Mr. Cinnamond’s small cap composite (that is, the weighted average of the separately managed accounts under his charge over the past 20 years) has returned 10% per year to his investors. That figure understates his stock picking skills, since it includes the low returns he earned on his often-substantial cash holdings.

The key to Mr. Cinnamond’s performance (which, Morningstar observed, “trounced nearly all equity funds”) is achieved, in his words, “by not making mistakes.” He articulates a strong focus on absolute returns; that is, he’d rather position his portfolio to make some money, steadily, in all markets, rather than having it alternately soar and swoon. There seem to be three elements involved in investing without mistakes:

  • Buy the right firms.
  • At the right price.
  • Move decisively when circumstances demand.

All things being equal, his “right” firms are “steady-Eddy companies.” They’re firms with look for companies with strong cash flows and solid operating histories. Many of the firms in his portfolio are 50 or more years old, often market leaders, more mature firms with lower growth and little debt.

His judgment, as of early 2016, is that virtually any new investments in his universe – which requires both high business quality and low stock prices – would be a mistake. He writes:

As a result of extremely expensive small cap valuations, especially in higher quality small cap stocks, the Independent Value Portfolio maintains its very contrarian positioning. Cash is near record levels, while expensive, high quality small cap holdings have been sold. We expect our unique, but disciplined, positioning to cause the Portfolio to continue to look and perform very differently than the market and its peers.

… we do not believe the current market cycle will continue indefinitely. We feel we are positioned well for the end of the current cycle and the inevitable return to more rational and justifiable equity valuations. As disciplined value investors, we have not strayed from our valuation practices and investment discipline. We continue to require an adequate return for risk assumed on each stock we consider for purchase, and will not invest your (and our) capital simply for the sake of being invested.

He’s at 85% cash currently (late April 2016), but that does not mean he’s some sort of ultra-cautious perma-bear. He has moved decisively to pursue bargains when they arise. “I’m willing to be aggressive in undervalued markets,” he says. For example, his fund went from 0% energy and 20% cash in 2008 to 20% energy and no cash at the market trough in March, 2009. Similarly, his small cap composite moved from 40% cash to 5% in the same period. That quick move let the fund follow an excellent 2008 (when defense was the key) with an excellent 2009 (where he was paid for taking risks). The fund’s 40% return in 2009 beat his index by 20 percentage points for a second consecutive year. As the market began frothy in 2010 (“names you just can’t value are leading the market,” he noted), he began to let cash build. While he found a few pockets of value in 2015 (he surprised himself by buying gold miners, something he’d never done), prices rose so quickly that he needed to sell.

The argument against owning is captured in Cinnamond’s cheery declaration, “I like volatility.” Because he’s unwilling to overpay for a stock, or to expose his shareholders to risk in an overextended market, he sidelines more and more cash which means the fund lags in extended rallies. But when stocks begin cratering, he moves quickly in which means he increases his exposure as the market falls. Buying before the final bottom is, in the short term, painful and might be taken, by some, as a sign that the manager has lost his marbles. Again.

Bottom Line

Mr. Cinnamond’s view, informed by a quarter century of investing and a careful review of history, is that small cap stocks are in a bubble. More particularly, they might be in a historic bubble that exceeds those in 2000 and 2007. Each of those peaks was followed by 40% declines. The fragility of the small cap space is illustrated by the sudden decline in those stocks in the stock half of 2015. In eight months, from their peak in June 2015 to their bottom in February 2016, small cap indexes dropped 22%. Then, in 10 weeks, they shrugged it off, rose 19% and returned to historically high valuations. Investing in small cap stocks can be rational and rewarding. Reaping those rewards requires a manager who is willing to protect you from the market’s worst excesses and your own all-to-human impulses. You might check here if you’re in search of such a manager.

Fund website

Aston/River Road Independent Value

© Mutual Fund Observer, 2016. All rights reserved. The information here reflects publicly available information current at the time of publication. For reprint/e-rights contact us.

Centaur Total Return Fund (TILDX)

By David Snowball

Objective

The fund seeks “maximum total return” through a combination of capital appreciation and income. The fund invests in undervalued securities, mostly mid- to large-cap dividend paying stocks. The manager has the option of investing in REITs, master limited partnerships, royalty trusts, preferred shares, convertibles, bonds and cash. The manager invests in companies “that it understands well.” The managers also generate income by selling covered calls on some of their stocks. The portfolio currently consists of about 30 holdings, 16 of which are stocks.

Adviser

Centaur Capital Partners, L.P., headquartered in Southlake, TX, has been the investment advisor for the fund since September 3, 2013. Before that, T2 Partners Management, LP advised the fund with Centaur serving as the sub-advisor. The first “T” of T2 was Whitney Tilson and this fund was named Tilson Dividend Fund. Centaur is a three person shop with about $90 million in AUM. It also advises the Centaur Value Fund LP, a hedge fund.

Manager

Zeke Ashton, founder, managing partner, and a portfolio manager of Centaur Capital Partners L.P., has managed the fund since inception. Before founding Centaur in 2002, he spent three years working for The Motley Fool where he developed and produced investing seminars, subscription investing newsletters and stock research reports in addition to writing online investing articles. He graduated from Austin College, a good liberal arts college, in 1995 with degrees in Economics and German.

Management’s Stake in the Fund

Mr. Ashton has somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 invested in the fund. One of the fund’s two trustees has a modest investment in it.

Strategy capacity

That’s dependent on market conditions. Mr. Ashton speculates that he could have quickly and profitably deployed $25 billion in March, 2009. In early 2016, he saw more reason to hold cash in anticipation of a significant market reset. He’s managed a couple hundred million before but has no aspiration to take it to a billion.

Opening date

March 16, 2005

Minimum investment

$1,500 for regular and tax-advantaged accounts, reduced to $1000 for accounts with an automatic investing plan.

Expense ratio

1.95% after waivers on an asset base of $27 million.

Comments

You’d think that a fund that had squashed the S&P 500 over the course of the current market cycle, and had done so with vastly less risk, would be swamped with potential investors. Indeed, you’d even hope so. And you’d be disappointed.

centaur

Here’s how to read that chart: over the course of the full market cycle that began in October 2007, Centaur has outperformed its peers and the S&P 500 by 2.6 and 1.7 percent annually, respectively. In normal times, it’s about 20% less volatile while in bear market months it’s about 25% less volatile. In the worst-case – the 2007-09 meltdown – it lost 17% less than the S&P and recovered 30 months sooner.

$10,000 invested in October 2007 would have grown to $18,700 in Centaur against $16,300 in Vanguard’s 500 Index Fund.

tildx

Centaur Total Return presents itself as an income-oriented fund. The argument for that orientation is simple: income stabilizes returns in bad times and adds to them in good. The manager imagines two sources of income: (1) dividends paid by the companies whose stock they own and (2) fees generated by selling covered calls on portfolio investments. The latter, of late, have been pretty minimal.

The core of the portfolio is a limited number (currently about 16) of high quality stocks. In bad markets, such stocks benefit from the dividend income – which helps support their share price – and from a sort of “flight to quality” effect, where investors prefer (and, to an extent, bid up) steady firms in preference to volatile ones. Almost all of those are domestic firms, though he’s had significant direct foreign exposure when market conditions permit. Mr. Ashton reports becoming “a bit less dogmatic” on valuations over time, but he remains one of the industry’s most disciplined managers.

The manager also sells covered calls on a portion of the portfolio. At base, he’s offering to sell a stock to another investor at a guaranteed price. “If GM hits $40 a share within the next six months, we’ll sell it to you at that price.” Investors buying those options pay a small upfront price, which generates income for the fund. As long as the agreed-to price is approximately the manager’s estimate of fair value, the fund doesn’t lose much upside (since they’d sell anyway) and gains a bit of income. The profitability of that strategy depends on market conditions; in a calm market, the manager might place only 0.5% of his assets in covered calls but, in volatile markets, it might be ten times as much.

Mr. Ashton brings a hedge fund manager’s ethos to this fund. That’s natural since he also runs a hedge fund in parallel to this. Long before he launched Centaur, he became convinced that a good hedge fund manager needs to have “an absolute value mentality,” in part because a fund’s decline hits the manager’s finances personally. The goal is to “avoid significant drawdowns which bring the prospect of catastrophic or permanent capital loss. That made so much sense. I asked myself, what if somebody tried to help the average investor out – took away the moments of deep fear and wild exuberance? They could engineer a relatively easy ride. And so I designed a fund for folks like my parents. Dad’s in his 70s, he can’t live on no-risk bonds but he’d be badly tempted to pull out of his stock investments at the bottom. And so I decided to try to create a home for those people.”

And he’s done precisely that: a big part of his assets are from family and friends, people who know him and whose fates are visible to him almost daily. He’s served them well.

Bottom Line

You’re certain to least want funds like Centaur just when you most need them. As the US market reaches historic highs that might be today. For folks looking to maintain their stock exposure cautiously, and be ready when richer opportunities present themselves, this is an awfully compelling little fund.

Fund website

Centaur Total Return Fund

© Mutual Fund Observer, 2016. All rights reserved. The information here reflects publicly available information current at the time of publication. For reprint/e-rights contact us.

Funds in Registration, May 2016

By David Snowball

AMG Multi-Asset Income Fund

AMG Multi-Asset Income Fund will seek a high level of current income. They intend to invest in many sorts of income-producing securities, using five sub-advisers with five different approaches, in order to generate “incrementally more yield” than a portfolio of government securities. That’s nice, except that their risk target is “lower than the S&P 500 Index over the long term.” On face, that’s not a compelling balance. The management teams haven’t been named. The initial expense ratio has not been set, nor has the expense cap that apparently will be in place. The minimum initial investment is $2,000, reduced to $1,000 for various tax-advantaged products.

AMG SouthernSun Global Opportunities Fund

AMG SouthernSun Global Opportunities Fund will seek long-term capital appreciation. The plan is to invest globally in 15-40 small to mid-cap companies. As with their US small cap fund, they’re looking for firms with financial flexibility, good management and niche dominance. The domestic small cap fund has suffered from “the girl with the curl” problem. The fund will be managed by Michael Cook, who also manages the other two SouthernSun funds. The initial expense ratio will be 1.70% and the minimum initial investment is $2,000, reduced to $1,000 for various tax-advantaged products.

Concorde Wealth Management Trust

Concorde Wealth Management Trust will seek total return and preservation of capital. The plan is to invest in all kinds of stuff – stocks, bonds, private placements – that is attractively valued, though the prospectus doesn’t mention how the managers will allocate between asset classes nor whether there are any limits on their discretion. For reasons unclear, they insist on shouting the world FUND over and over in the prospectus. The fund will be managed by Dr. Gary B. Wood, John Stetter, and Gregory B. Wood. The initial expense ratio will be 1.37% and the minimum initial investment is $500.

DoubleLine Ultra Short Bond Fund

DoubleLine Ultra Short Bond Fund will seek current income consistent with limited price volatility. They’ll target securities with a duration under one year and an average credit quality of AA- or higher. The fund will be managed by Bonnie Baha, who famously referred to her boss as “a freakin’ jerk” and still manages four funds for him, and Jeffrey Lee. The initial expense ratio has not been set, nor has the expense cap that apparently will be in place. The minimum initial investment is $2,000, reduced to $500 for various tax-advantaged products.

Toreador Select Fund

Toreador Select Fund will seek long-term capital appreciation. The plan is to deploy “a proprietary stock selection model” (aren’t they all proprietary?) to select 35-60 large cap stocks. The fund will be managed by Paul Blinn and Rafael Resendes of Toreador Research & Trading. The team also managed Toreador Core, a global all-cap fund with a modestly regrettable record since: total returns trail its peers while volatility is modestly higher. The initial expense ratio will be 1.21% and the minimum initial investment is $1,000.

Otter Creek Long Short Opportunity (OTCRX), April 2016

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The Otter Creek Long/Short Opportunity Fund seeks long-term capital appreciation. They take long positions in securities they believe to be undervalued and short positions in the overvalued. Their net market exposure will range between (-35%) and 80%. They can place up to 20% in MLPs, 30% in REITs, and 30% in fixed income securities, including junk bonds. They use a limited amount of leverage. The fund is unusually concentrated with about 30 long and 30 short positions.

Adviser

Otter Creek Advisors. Otter Creek Advisors was formed for the special purpose of managing this mutual fund and giving Messrs. Walling and Winter, the two primary managers, a substantial equity stake in the operation. That arrangement is part of a “succession plan to provide equity ownership to the next generation of portfolio managers: Mike Winter and Tyler Walling.” Otter Creek Advisers has about $280 million in assets under management.

Managers

R. Keith Long, Tyler Walling and Michael Winter. Mr. Long has a long and distinguished career in the financial services industry, dating back to 1973. Mr. Walling joins Otter Creek in 2011 after a five-year stint as an equity analyst for Goldman Sachs. Mr. Winter joined Otter Creek in 2007. Prior to Otter Creek, he worked for a long/short equity hedge fund and, before that, for Putnam Investment Management.

Strategy capacity and closure

Somewhere “north of a billion” the team would consider a soft close. They were pretty emphatic that they didn’t want to become an asset sponge and that they were putting an enormous amount of care into attracting compatible investors.

Management’s stake in the fund

Mr. Long has invested more than $1,000,000 in the fund, Mr. Winter and Mr. Walling each have $500,000-$1,000,000. Those are substantial commitments for 30-something managers to make. Sadly, as of December 30, 2015, no member of the fund’s board of trustees had chosen to invest in it.

Opening date

December 30, 2013.

Minimum investment

$2,500, reduced to $1,000 for accounts established with an automatic investment plan.

Expense ratio

2.57% for the Investor class, on assets of $270 million (as of March 2016). The fund caps its fees at 1.95% but has to account for acquired fund fees and other expenses related to shorting. Those amount to 0.92%.

Comments

In its first two-plus years of operation, Otter Creek Opportunity has been a very, very good long/short fund. Three observations lie behind that judgment.

First, it has made much more money than its generally sad sack peer group. From inception from the end of February, 2016, OTCRX posted annual returns of 10.2%. Its average peer lost 1% annually in the same period. During that stretch, it bested the S&P 500 in 15 of 25 calendar months and beat its peers in 17 of 25 months.

Second, it has provided exceptional downside protection. It outperformed the S&P 500 in 10 of the 11 months in which the index declined and consistently stayed in the range of tiny losses to modest gains in periods when the S&P 500 was down 3% or more.

ottrx

It also outperformed its long/short peers in nine of the 11 months in which the S&P 500 dropped. Since launch, the fund’s downside deviation has been only 40% of its peers and its maximum drawdown has been barely one-fourth as great as theirs.

Third, it has negligible correlation to the market. To date, its correlation to the S&P 500 is 0.05. In practical terms, that means that there’s no evidence that a decline in the stock market will be consistently associated with a decline in Otter Creek.

What accounts for their very distinctive performance?

At base, the managers believe it’s because they focus. They focus, for example, on picking exceptional stocks. They are Graham and Dodd sorts of investors, looking for sustainably high return-on-equity, growing dividends, limited financial leverage and dominant market positions.  They use a “forensic accounting approach to financial statement analysis” to help identify not only attractive firms but also the places within the firm’s capital structure that holds the best opportunities. They tend to construct a focused portfolio around 30 or so long and short positions. On the flip side, they short firms that use aggressive accounting, weak balance sheets, wretched leadership and low quality earnings.

Which is to say, yes, they were shorting Valeant in 2015.

Their top ten long and short positions, taken together, account for about 70% of the portfolio. They’re both more concentrated and more patient, measured by turnover, than their peers.

They also focus on the portfolio, rather than just on individual names for the portfolio. They’ve created a series of rules, drawing on their prior work with their firm’s hedge fund, to limit mishaps in their short portfolio. If, for example, a short position begins to get “crowded,” that is, if other investors start shorting the same names they do, they’ll reduce their position size to avoid the risk of a short squeeze. Likewise they substantially reduce or eliminate any short that moves against the portfolio by 25% or more over the course of six months.

Bottom Line

Messrs. Walling and Winter bear watching. They’ve got a healthy attitude and have done a lot right in a short period. As of mid-February, they had a vast performance advantage over the S&P 500 and their peers. Even after the S&P’s furious six-week rally, they are still ahead – and vastly ahead if you take the effects of volatility into account. It’s clear that they see this fund as a long-term project, they’re excited by it and they’re looking for the right kind of investors to join in with them. If you’re looking to partner with investors who don’t like volatility and detest losing their shareholders money, you might reasonably add OTCRX to your short-list of funds to investigate.

Fund website

Otter Creek Long/Short

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