Couvreur highlights his team’s success in two asset classes in which active managers have struggled to deliver outperformance: US equities and government bonds.
According to recent analysis by Standard & Poor’s, only one in five US equity funds have managed to consistently outperform their peers in the past three calendar years. Couvreur’s team, however, seems to have the Midas touch.
“Eighty per cent of our US equity model portfolios were above peers and benchmark last year,” he says.
One of the managers he uses is Howard Gleicher, a US equity value manager who founded his own boutique, Aristotle, in 2010 (see graph). Of the €660m in assets invested in the fund, about a third come from external investors.
“In 2013, we added this fund to our funds of mandates. We have the exclusive distribution rights for this fund in Europe,” says Couvreur.
In fixed income, his fund picks were even more successful in 2015. “All of them were above benchmark, and some by 150 basis points,” he says.
So does ABN Amro Investment Solutions ever recommend passive solutions?
“For most asset classes, we still think there is value in active management, at least most of the time,” says Couvreur. “In some asset classes, however, it has been difficult to generate alpha, so these are candidates for passive investment in some periods.”
While Couvreur does not engage in selecting plain vanilla trackers, he has recently started to look at smart beta.
“We are looking at dividend strategies and other single factor exchange-traded funds. But we have only been engaging with smart beta for six months now. We are finalising our research and the amount of assets invested is limited for now,” he says, adding that he is not yet prepared to replace any of his active funds with smart beta.