Best In Class 

Best in Class: Schroder European Alpha Income

Best in Class: Schroder European Alpha Income

Summer seems to be coming to an end. 

The kids are going back to school this week, the unusually hot weather has cooled, and people have started to talk about Christmas on the radio.

I've been very lucky this year: I've travelled around Europe with my family, exploring France, Italy and Croatia - enjoying 'free movement' on the continent while I can.

And its to Continental Europe that I turn this week with my fund selection, with a particular focus on income. 

The second quarter of each year is an important one for European companies as two-thirds make their dividend payments. And it has been a bumper season this year.

According to the latest Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index, underlying growth in the region was the strongest it has been since 2014. France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Ireland all broke new records. 

One fund that we have discovered and rated more recently, which is taking advantage of these growing income opportunities, is Schroder European Alpha Income. Run by James Sym since its launch in November 2012 (pre-merger, when it was a Cazenove fund), it offers something a bit different from the standard European equity income portfolio.

While many peers will invest in the usual dividend aristocrats and have a bias towards quality growth companies, this fund has no such style bias and will invest in more cyclical companies too.

For idea generation, Mr Sym uses a network of European brokers, which he has built over the course of his career, in addition to Schroders' own well-resourced investment team. He'll also meet company management at their factories, rather than their offices, to get a better feel for the business.

He particularly favours stock ideas which have a lot of potential to do well but are less likely to fall on hard times. The resulting fund is concentrated in 30 to 50 stocks - mostly larger companies, with very little in small caps.

What I particularly like about Mr Sym is his willingness to adapt to different market environments. His aim is not to try and time any changes in market dynamics, but to consider what is already priced in before applying a bit of common sense, and taking a view on the best trade-off between risk and reward.

While other investors have turned to reliable, low volatility bond-proxies, such as those in the consumer staples sectors, Mr Sym believes that their earnings growth is slowing and, when inflation returns, these characteristics will be less attractive.

And his view is that inflation will indeed return: every debt crisis in the past century has resulted that way, as it is the only way to cut long-term debt in an economy.

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