Tuesday, 6 May 2014

What's Investing Style?

Understand Investment Styles and Determine Which Fit Your Portfolio.

By Melissa Phipps

Successful investors and investments don't just pick companies on a whim. They narrow their focus on investment styles. They may target companies of a certain size, look at company fundamentals as a predictor of long-term value or annual growth, manage every stock move or set the investing on auto-pilot. Most mutual funds or ETFs have a pre-determined style that does not (or should not, sometimes funds get tricky) vary. Often, these investments target a combination of styles. So how do you make sense of it all? Learn the types of investment styles, and it can help you determine which investments best suit your style.

1. Investing by company size: Large Cap, Mid Cap, Small Cap

Companies perform in different ways at various times in their growth cycles. Investors focus on capturing companies at different points—when they are just starting, just starting to grow, in mid-growth, or well established. You can do this by focusing on market capitalization, or the number of outstanding shares multiplied by share price. Large capitalization or big cap companies are those worth more than $10 billion. Mid-caps or mid capitalization companies are about $2 billion to $10 billion. Small-caps or small capitalization companies, between $100 million and $2 billion. There are micro-caps below that, then nano caps, then... I guess angel investments. Fund managers typically choose a market capitalization to focus on. For example, "This fund seeks to generate capital appreciation by investing in small cap companies" or, more specifically, "This Fund seeks capital appreciation principally through the investment in common stock of companies with operating revenues of $250 million or less at the time of initial investment."
So what's the difference? Typically, small-cap companies offer more growth potential. If you get in at the right time (think early Microsoft, 1990s Apple), you can get a great investment return. But small-caps can be riskier than established large-caps. Only the strongest small companies survive. The risks increase as companies get smaller. Micro-, nano- and other tiny-capitalization investments could have serious potential, but unless you are a very agressive investor and can afford the loss, they shouldn't represent a huge part of your portfolio.
Large-cap companies move the market. They are the dominant players, produce consist returns over time, and may even return dividends to investors. They are also liquid companies, meaning it's easy to buy and sell their shares. There typically offer decent returns with less risk, and since they represent the larger market these companies should play a dominant role in your portfolio.
In between are mid-caps, which some investors think is a sweet spot where you can find companies with growth potential that act like value plays (more on growth vs value below).
Different-sized companies seem to perform differently, meaning when large caps are down, small move up. These are assets that are non-correlated, they don't move in the same way. Owning companies of each size helps to balance some of the risk of your portfolio.

2. Investing in company fundamentals: Growth Investing and Value Investing

Some investors use analysis of fundamentals to determine where a company is headed. Growth investors look for companies they think will increase earnings at least 15% to 25% a year on average, based on management, new products, competition, etc. Value investors look for companies that are selling cheap compared to intrinsic value or the value of tangible assets.
For many investors, the real win is a combination of growth and value. A good company with solid long-term prospects at a reasonable price. That's super investor Warren Buffett's way (he doesn't believe in the two separate strategies).

3. Investing with or without a manager: Active vs Passive

An actively managed fund is one with a manager or team of managers picking stocks in an attempt to beat the market. A passively managed fund, also known as an index fund, follows a set group of stocks to achieve its stated goals. Index funds perform like the index they follow, and because there is no one to pay the expenses are typically cheaper than actively managed funds.
Active managers can try to reduce risk when the markets are turbulent, but managers rarely beat the markets by enough to justify the extra expense of an actively managed fund. A recent study found that only 24% of actively managed funds beat their passive counterparts.

4. Investing in a market segment: Sector Investing

Some investors narrow their style to invest in a specific industry or sector, say technology, consumer goods or manufacturing. Sector funds are not diversified in and of themselves, but they can help balance out a portfolio that is heavily weighted in a certain sector because it contains a lot of company stock, for example.
balanced portfolio can contain a combination of the fund styles mentioned above. It really depends on your personal tolerance for risk, your goals, and the types of investments available to you through your 401(k) or individual retirement account. You can use an asset allocation calculator (this one from Bankrate) to figure out what's right for you. (Some people are just as well off putting everything in an index fund, which is just a cheap way to own the entire market, or a target retirement fund, which does the asset allocation for you.) Choose based on what works for your own investment style.


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