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Portfolio > Mutual Funds > Bond Funds

Morningstar’s Fund Managers of the Year: 2017

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Morningstar today announced the winners of its 2017 U.S. Fund Manager of the Year awards, given in four major categories: domestic stock, international stock, fixed income and allocation/alternatives.

(Related: 16 Best Fund Managers of 2017: Morningstar)

All four category winners “used their proven investment approaches to come out on top,” said Laura Pavlenko Lutton, Morningstar’s director of manager research, North America, in a statement. All four also winners also had “impressive long-term records,” said Lutton.

Indeed, all four funds ranked in the top 10% for their Morningstar category over 10 years and two of the funds, the Prudential Total Return Bond Fund and T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation Fund, placed in the top 1% over 10 years. Unfortunately, two of the four funds, Fidelity Growth Company Fund and T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation Fund, are closed to new investors.

Here are some highlights from the Morningstar announcement:

Domestic Stock Fund Manager of the Year

Steven Wymer, Fidelity Growth Company Fund

2017 Return: 36.8%

2017 Ranking: Top 5%

10-year Ranking: Top 4%

Wymer has run the fund since 1997, searching for above average top-line growth prospects and distinctive products, according to Morningstar. As a result, the fund is heavily invested in technology and health care (biotech) stocks, including Nvidia (NVDA), its single biggest holding, which gained over 80% in 2017. Below-average fees also helped along with the fund’s closure to new investors, which protects Wymer’s ability to invest in small- and mid-cap shares, according to Morningstar.

International Stock Fund Manager of the Year

Sarah Ketterer, Harry Hartford and Team, Causeway International Value Fund

2017 Return: 27.1%

2017 Ranking: Top 14%

10-year Ranking: Top 10%

Eight portfolio managers run the Causeway fund, led by Ketterer and Hartford, using fundamental and quantitative analysis to select 50 to 60 stocks that are held for the long term. Morningstar describes the strategy as aggressive and contrarian, which can also lead to extended slumps. The fund’s bet on Volkswagen (VOW3) in 2017, however, paid off as the stock gained more than 40%.

Fixed Income Fund Manager of the Year

Michael Collins, Robert Tipp, Richard Piccirillo and Gregory Peters, Prudential Total Return Bond Fund

2017 Return: 6.6%

2017 Ranking: Top 2%

10-year Ranking: 1%

These four portfolio managers have at least 23 years of industry experience each, but they also access research from a much larger team of fundamental analysts who are also focused on risk management. Sector selection, sector allocation and yield curve and duration position all contributed to the fund’s 2017 outperformance, according to Morningstar.  

“This team has shown it can weather the storm when it comes to market volatility, and the managers have the flexibility to adjust the fund when necessary,” said Lutton.

The fund focuses on corporate bonds and securitized assets.

Allocation/Alternatives Fund Manager of the Year

David Giroux, T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation

2017 Return: 15.4%

2017 Ranking: top 22%

10-Year Ranking: 1%

This is Giroux’s second win; the first was in 2012. The fund, which invests in a split of 60% stocks/40% bonds, convertibles, leveraged loans and cash, has beaten its category average every year since 2008 and returned a 9.2% annualized gain since June 2006 when Giroux took the helm.

“Strong health care picks such as Abbott Laboratories and UnitedHealth Group and a bias toward corporate bonds in the fixed-income sleeve contributed to the funds success in 2017,” said Lutton. Also, a sizable weighting in high-yield bonds helped offset the almost nonexistent gain from the fund’s 14% cash position, according to Morningstar.

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