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Multi-manager View: Don’t miss the BRIC boat

By 2015, there will be more than a billion new members of the middle class in Brazil, Russia, India and China, according to the World Bank, yet most investors with any kind of global equity exposure are missing the boat when it comes to capturing any of that growth.

A typical pension fund with a global mandate, for example, often aims to follow closely the performance of indices such as the FTSE or MSCI World. If it is an active mandate, it might aim for a tracking error of, say, a few percentage points either side of the index.

What does an investor get for that global exposure? Most managers are constrained geographically. Given that the US makes up about 51 per cent of the FTSE World, you will find that many global equity mandates are invested heavily in US stocks.

Likewise, the eurozone has a weighting of about 14 per cent in the World index while the UK has a 10 per cent weighting, so another quarter or so of a global fund may be in those markets.

You are probably seeing where I am going with this. If your pension fund is invested in a big global equity fund, almost all of your money will be in developed markets. The countries where the action is have little to no weighting – Brazil has a 0.8 per cent weighting and China, via the Hong Kong market has a 1.2 per cent weighting. Russia and India are not even in the FTSE World index. This is not to say that you will not be getting exposure in an index fund to some good companies that are profiting from growth in the BRICs. There are many plays on emerging market growth based in developed markets, such as Standard Chartered or Tesco.

But along with those, you are also getting the staid, low-growth developed market companies such as utilities or mortgage lenders. For real growth, you have to throw off some of the constraints. There are many ways to do this. Direct investment in emerging markets is a notoriously tricky game, clearly, there are timing issues to consider. There are also indirect ways to harness this growth. Oil stocks are the obvious beneficiary of emerging markets’ demand, as are mining companies such as BHP Billiton and Xstrata, which are benefiting from record prices for metals such as copper. An index fund will give you some of these indirect plays but only in their index weighting.

Our view is that multi-manager funds fill a much needed gap in this environment, depending on how willing the managers are to make active asset allocation calls. We consider it part of our duty to investors to enhance returns via asset allocation and this year has been no different.

For example, 34 per cent of the Jupiter Merlin Worldwide portfolio is currently invested in specialist funds, such as Jupiter emerging European opportunities and JPMF natural resources, compared with 21per cent exposure to the US. These are good quality, well managed funds, yet they give investors access to a far more interesting range of opportunities than you could get from slavish adherence to a benchmark. Even the UK managers we own are actively targeting the most interesting global themes, such as Fidelity special situations.

We would also add that we have taken a strong view on the resurgent Japanese economy, with 23 per cent of the Jupiter Merlin worldwide portfolio currently invested in three Japanese funds.

Our view is that if you want to access growth in the BRICs you need to act now, not after the fact, when the companies involved only become big enough to feature on a global index.

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