Wealth Manager - the site for professional investment managers

Register to get unlimited access to Citywire’s fund manager database. Registration is free and only takes a minute.

Investors treating Gars unfairly, says Rob Burdett

Investors treating Gars unfairly, says Rob Burdett

The mighty Standard Life Investments Global Absolute Returns Strategy (Gars) fund is being ‘penalised’ by investors who did not understand absolute return does not mean guaranteed outperformance, says fund selector Rob Burdett.

Investors withdrew £5.6 billion from the UK’s biggest fund in the first six months of this year, adding to the £4.6 billion withdrawn in the second half of 2016 following underperformance.

The fund uses many strategies to trade in currencies, bonds and stock market futures with the view to protect investors’ capital and make small, incremental gains. Over five years it has delivered a 17% total return but in the past two years has fallen in value.  

According to figures from the Investment Association, investors pulled £147 million from the £23 billion fund in August, while Gars rival, Aviva Investors Multi-Strategy (Aims), saw inflows of £223 million.

Burdett, who co-manages the F&C Navigator Distribution fund of funds range, has increased his exposure to absolute return funds in recent months.

He believes the Gars fund is being ‘penalised a bit harshly’ for its underperformance as its Aviva adversary under former Gars manager Euan Munro has also failed to hit target but has been rewarded with inflows of investor money.

Burdett believes Standard Life Investments went ‘out of its way to educate people [about Gars] but they still do not understand it’.

‘It’s a complex product sold to people who are not complex,’ he said. ‘You get people buying absolute return funds who hear ‘guarantee’ and think it will not go down, but we all know funds go down and that is part of life.’

However, Burdett added that the fund was ‘mis-bought not mis-sold’ and investors have been scared by the underperformance of what they thought was a one-way bet.

‘With Gars, people have been bailing out because of some negative returns...But [the fund] did a good job in 2008 and 2011 when [investors] really needed help,’ he said.

‘People need to take risk to get return but they have been trying to avoid risk altogether through a product that does not appear to offer [risk]. At the end of the day it is still a group of people [fund managers] making these decisions and sometimes [those decisions] will be good and sometimes they will not.’

While Burdett (pictured) and co-manager Gary Potter have added to their absolute return fund allocation, they have moved away from property and currently have no infrastructure investments.

‘I find it hard to invest cheapily and easily in property,’ he said.

There are alternative assets that Burdett prefers, including Darwin Leisure Property, an open-ended unregulated collective investment scheme. The fund owns and operates caravan parks in the UK.

‘What we want from alternative assets is just to pick up the slack when the markets have a hissy fit,’ said Burdett.

‘Darwin Leisure is counter-cyclical and a recession beneficiary. In 2008 and post Brexit it improved because weak currency made overseas trips more expensive.

‘If we find the right thing we will increase alternatives. With inflation picking up a bit and the job market tightening both here and the US...we want things that are a bit immune to that risk.’

Leave a comment!

Please sign in or register to comment. It is free to register and only takes a minute or two.
Citywire TV
CIO Tapes 2: two warnings and a lot of optimism

CIO Tapes 2: two warnings and a lot of optimism

Our group of leading asset management CIOs see a lot of opportunities – and overseas investors are buying UK too

Play Wealth Manager Retreat 2017: size isn't everything

Wealth Manager Retreat 2017: size isn't everything

We asked our delegates at the Wealth Manager Retreat what they think about the recent wave of consolidation in the industry.

1 Comment Play CIO Tapes - part 3: 'passive funds are anti-capitalist'

CIO Tapes - part 3: 'passive funds are anti-capitalist'

Citywire recently gathered three of the UK's leading fund investment heads to discuss their hopes, fears and the issues that their jobs throw at them daily.

Read More
Your Business: Cover Star Club

Profile: Kleinwort Hambros' boss on how to manage five banks

Profile: Kleinwort Hambros' boss on how to manage five banks

Welding together Kleinwort and Hambros – two of Britain’s most historic banks, founded in 1786 and 1839 respectively – was always going to be a challenge.

Wealth Manager on Twitter