In our series of fund manager profiles, we speak to Coolabah Capital Investments which manages Smarter Money Investments funds. Smarter Money Investments provides specialist active management in the in the liquid cash plus & short-term fixed interest asset-classes.
The Coolabah/Smarter Money Investments’ portfolio management team is led by experienced fixed-interest, economics research, and managed investment specialists Christopher Joye and Darren Harvey, who are both Executive Directors and Co-Chief Investment Officers.
Australia’s main fixed-income index—against which almost all superannuation funds benchmark—delivered its fourth worst return in modern history over the 12 months to 30 June 2017. In particular, the exclusively “fixed-rate” (rather than “floating-rate”) AusBond Composite Index returned just 0.25 per cent over the last year before you deduct fees.
After accounting for Australia’s 2.1 per cent inflation rate, investors in these fixed-rate bonds actually suffered a “real” return loss of minus 1.85 per cent from what is supposed to be a bullet-proof asset-class dominated by super-safe bonds.
Indeed, the AusBond Treasury Index, which is made up of twenty-plus AAA rated Australian government bonds, suffered an outright loss with a terrible return of minus 1 per cent over the year to 30 June (or minus 3.1 per cent after inflation).
One of our portfolio managers recently published a column in The Australian Financial Review on the contentious "active vs passive" investment debate, which you can download for free here (or read via the AFR here). The column opened as follows:
"Buying a "passive" or "indexed" fund is lobotomised investing, predicated on the beliefs that the market is smarter than you are, investors are systematically rational, assets are always properly valued as prices move in an unpredictable "random walk" and, finally, one has no ability to identify those "active" managers that do consistently beat benchmarks. (Yes, they exist.) The problem is that every single one of these assumptions has at various times and across different sectors proven to be wildly incorrect, save for the question on your relative intellectual quotient and/or financial markets expertise. For those who never want to engage in analysis and/or are convinced they possess fundamentally inferior faculties, passive strategies may certainly be preferable to an "active" approach. And let's be frank, many folks fall into this category. Yet let's also bust the utterly misguided myth that passive investing is universally superior to active."
For many, if not most, the financial market reaction to President-elect Trump’s stunning victory would have been shocking. How on earth could US equities be up 1.1 per cent—an amazing 6 percentage points higher than the lows immediately after the result when the S&P500 smashed into its negative 5 per cent “circuit breaker”—and government bond yields be above their pre-election peaks after dropping like a stone? The answer resides in expectations of President Trump contrasted against “stump Trump”.
We don't think Australian bank shareholders are cognisant of the risk that if equity capital ratios fall modestly, there are new automatic restrictions imposed by the regulator on the distribution of earnings that mean dividends may not be paid. In fact, it is likely that some banks will stop paying dividends altogether in the next recession as they rebuild capital eroded by loan losses.
At a seminar this week I was asked to define what we mean by "active" management. Start with the alternative: passive investing or blindly following market indices is by design price- or valuation-agnostic capital allocation (given the assumption markets are generally right or "efficient"). Irrespective of how overvalued or undervalued an asset class may be, the passive portfolio accepts exposure to it.