3 Investment Themes for 2021
Morningstar Investment Management's Dan Kemp reveals the three investment themes on his mind for the year ahead.
Holly Black: Welcome to Morningstar. I'm Holly Black. With me is Dan Kemp. He is from Morningstar Investment Management.
Dan Kemp: Hello, Holly.
Black: Dan, it's that time of year where I'm writing my Christmas list, but I'm also taking stock of what happened in 2020 and thinking to the year ahead. So, three themes for the year ahead you've got for us. Where should we start?
Kemp: Holly, I think we have to start with value. That's a word on many people's lips at the moment, and it's for some been quite a dirty word in investment terms over the last couple of years because so-called value managers have performed pretty poorly and that's because people have become very enthusiastic about growth stocks, technology stocks, so-called working-from-home stocks that are expected to benefit from the current environment. These were already expensive coming into the pandemic and really the pandemic has just heightened the price of some of these growth, technology, working-from-home stocks. What we see at the moment is an incredible bifurcation between value and growth, and we think actually that growth is poised to underperform value as we go forward as these valuations reassert themselves back to something approaching normality.
Black: We have seen a couple of recent flurries in value stocks, little upward trajectories, but it never seems to last. What's it going to take to get a lasting run in this part of the market?
Kemp: The truth is Holly that nobody knows. We have short-term market price that's driven by fashions and emotions and short-term political events. There's many things that could happen that would hold back prices in the short term. But what we know is that over a long-term investment horizon, the sort of period that people really care about when making investments, that the fair value of an asset, what it's really worth, is the most important thing. And as prices trend towards that fair value, then we'd see these out-of-favor stocks, things like energy and financials and others, will probably do better than these very fashionable stocks in technology.
Black: OK. Theme number two?
Kemp: Theme number two is a bit controversial. It's active management. We've spoken many times before about how beneficial taking a passive approach can be because the costs are so low. But given the great spread in valuations we're seeing in the market at the moment, we think there are really good opportunities for active managers, whether they're selecting individual companies or managing entire portfolios to add value in the coming few years in a way they've really struggled to do over the last few years. Again, cost is incredibly important. You need to access an active management with the most talented investors as cheap as you possibly can. But we can see that coming back into the fore over the next few years as these active managers are able to select companies or select assets that are out of favor with the possibility of much higher returns.
Black: And I guess it's worth pointing out that doesn't mean throw away all of the passive, all of the tracker funds, but it means strategically choose those areas where active managers can do better?
Kemp: That's exactly right. Active management is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. There are some asset classes where it's very difficult for active managers to add value, and some areas where active management is typically really expensive. And so, all of that work has to be done before picking an active management. Of course, we've got some fantastic fund analysts at Morningstar that produce research on active and passive managers that might help people. But in the meantime, we can see a renaissance in some areas of active management over the coming few years.
Black: And what is our third and final theme?
Kemp: The third theme I don't think will surprise anyone, and that is ESG. This seems to be the investment theme that's on top of mind for everyone at the moment, as we're seeing many launches of new ESG products, many articles talking about the ESG style of investment. And while that's likely to continue to be a dominant theme, ESG has become such a broad umbrella term, I think we need to be really careful when choosing an ESG fund that we understand what we're buying because not all ESG funds, not all ESG strategies are the same. Some are very similar to making a conventional investment. You end up owning most of the same stocks in most of the same proportions. Some are very, very different. And so, if you're thinking of taking an ESG approach, firstly, we'd recommend you get advice, but secondly do your homework, do the research and that will help guide you towards the right ESG strategy for you.
Black: Dan, thank you so much for your time. For Morningstar, I'm Holly Black.