asset allocator header image

Asset Allocator

from Asset Allocator

There is a Lightman that never goes out

It was such a tough start to 2022 for European equity funds that only one mandate in the entire IA Europe ex-UK sector delivered a positive return. 

But nearly half of the sector beat the MSCI Europe ex-UK index - though it probably helped that the benchmark reported a loss of nearly 15 per cent.

That one fund which delivered a positive return was Barry Norris' Argonaut Equity Income. 

Norris has had an extremely bearish view on equity markets and the impact of quantitative tightening on asset prices for many years, and is also happy to short sell equities.

In the past he has expressed frustration that his fund underperformed in rising markets, but the volatility that has pock-marked equities this year has played into his hands (though he only posted a return of 0.78 per cent).

His fund is not held by any of the allocators on our database, and indeed is just £2.5mn in size, making it too small for many DFMs to consider.

The most popular European equity fund on our database is BlackRock Continental European Income, which is owned by 10 of the DFMs we cover. 

It managed to outperform the MSCI Europe ex-UK index in 2022 so far, but lost more than 12 per cent in doing so.

The next most widely-held fund is BlackRock European Dynamic, which is held in eight portfolios but didn’t get anywhere near the benchmark, losing more than 20 per cent. 

The Premier Miton European Opportunities fund is also held by eight of the allocators on our database and it had an even worse time, losing 28 per cent in the first six months of the year. 

Of the funds held by allocators on our database, the best performing was Lightman European, a £450mn mandate which is held by three of the allocators on our database.

It is run by Rob Burnett, formerly of Neptune and a manager with a long track record of value investing, which may help explain the strong performance at the start of this year (if that's what we are calling a loss of 2.26 per cent, but I guess we're in strange times).

Lightman Investment Management was set up by Burnett in 2019 after he left Neptune, where he ran the European Opportunities fund, and his fund (one of only two the company offers) has provided top quartile returns since its inception - though it had a tougher time in 2020 when growth investing was the be-all and end-all.

The fund has recently celebrated its third anniversary, meaning it will come onto the radars of a greater number of DFMs - and indeed one of the three DFMs which holds it bought it within the past few months.

Get the story behind the stories
The daily newsletter for fund buyers