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Top 10 funds: what investors bought in September

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Fundsmith Equity and CF Woodford Equity Income were the best-selling funds once again in September, according to online platform Bestinvest.

The two funds – managed by Terry Smith and Neil Woodford respectively – have interchanged between first and second position on the list since February 2016.

Other funds making the charts included: Stewart Asia Pacific Leaders, Liontrust Special Situations and Threadneedle European Select.

The ‘most popular funds list’ revealed investors’ continued preference for long-established active equity fund managers rather than rising stars in most markets.

The one exception has been the US, where clients firmly favoured passive funds.

“It is easy to see why, as while most UK and European equity funds have beaten their respective benchmarks over the last five years,  little more than 6% of funds in the IA North American sector have managed to outperform the S&P 500 Index over the same time period,” said Jason Hollands, managing director of Bestinvest.

The most popular funds selected in September 2016

1) The most popular fund for the fourth month running was the Fundsmith Equity fund, managed by Terry Smith. He hit the headlines recently for ploughing £115m more of his own cash into the fund, bringing his total holding to more than £200m – a big vote of self-confidence. Hollands said the fund manager has an invest-and-hold strategy focused on quality growth stocks from across developed markets and currently has a focus on consumer staples, 35.3%, healthcare, 24.4%, and technology, 23.9%.

2) In second place was Neil Woodford’s CF Woodford Equity Income. Woodford hit the headlines in September for lambasting the short-termism of the city. He believes fund managers should think like owners, believing they have invested in a stock rather than simply borrowing it for a short period.  Longstanding top holdings include healthcare multinationals AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, and he continues to invest in the tobacco industry with big positions in Imperial Brands and British American Tobacco.

3) The Tilney Bestinvest Growth portfolio was the third most popular fund and is designed for investors with a higher tolerance for risk and a long investment time horizon. Around two-thirds of the portfolio is invested in equity funds, including exposure to smaller companies, emerging markets and Asia. The remainder of the portfolio is diversified across bond funds, commercial property and other areas to reduce stock market risk.

4) In fourth place is the Tilney Bestinvest Aggressive Growth Portfolio which takes a more adventurous investment approach than the Growth portfolio, with a larger exposure to shares in small companies and overseas companies. It is designed for investors with a high tolerance for risk and a long investment time horizon.

5) Emerging market equities and Asian markets rebounded strongly over the summer after a shaky start to the year so it was unsurprising to see Stewart Asia Pacific Leaders appear in the list. The fund is managed by David Gait after Angus Tulloch handed over the reins in the summer. The investment approach is consistent, having the highest weighting to India, of 24.7%, with Taiwan (18.5%) the next largest weighting.

6) Managed by Julian Fosh and Anthony Cross, the Liontrust Special Situations fund has long held a Bestinvest five-star rating and has managed to achieve outperformance over the long term, but with less volatility than the UK market. The fund looks for companies able to sustain a higher than average level of profitability for longer than expected. Top holdings include takeaway franchise Domino’s Pizza, quality assurance group Interlek and professional services data provider RELX.

7) The Threadneedle European Select fund makes a return to the top 10 list at a time when manager Dave Dudding is joined co-manager Mark Nichols. The fund retains its bias to consumer goods, with healthcare, consumer services and chemicals also areas of focus. Financials are a considerable underweight due to concerns over the European banking sector. The fund aims to seek out companies with strong brands that are less sensitive to price-based competition and it invests heavily in firms such as Unilever and the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

8) The Threadneedle UK Equity Income fund is another great choice for core UK equity exposure. Manager Richard Colwell is well regarded due to his experience his fund currently has a defensive skew that focuses on total return. It is currently very underweight financials compared to its FTSE All-Share benchmark, and in the last three months has increased its position in AstraZeneca, while reducing its stake in retailer Marks and Spencer.

9) The HSBC American Index fund is a tracker fund that follows the S&P 500 index, which is notoriously hard for active managers to beat. Over the last five years managers of US equity funds have struggled to keep up with a bull market in US shares lifted on a tide of cheap money. Hollands said it’s no wonder that many investors have given up entirely on active funds for their US exposure, choosing low-cost trackers instead. This tracker fund has a very low ongoing charges figure of 0.08%.

10) The tenth slot was taken by the AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund run by Nigel Thomas who has been managing funds in the UK All Companies sector for over 28 years. He doesn’t invest in contractors, housebuilders, airlines or hotels because of a combination of low margins and low barriers to entry, preferring instead to stick with well-known consumer brands with strong cash flow generation. His top holdings include sports gaming group Paddy Power, Betfair, ITV and Dixons Carphone.