A fund manager who’s crushing nearly all of her peers breaks down 3 under-the-radar stocks driving her strong performance

amy zhang

The Alger Small Cap Focus Fund, managed by Amy Zhang, has gained 47% this year, outperforming its benchmark and all except one US fund tracked by Morningstar.
Small-cap stocks, broadly defined as companies worth between $200 million and $2 billion, provide a “fertile ground for active management,” she told Business Insider.
In a recent interview, Zhang shared three stock picks that have helped drive her fund’s outperformance, and what matters most when deciding which companies to invest in.

There’s hardly any obvious link between playing the piano and investing.

But Amy Zhang, who does both activities, can spot a few, including the importance of consistency, creativity, and practice. She also recalls the looming deadlines before each time her teacher would show up to evaluate what was learned during the previous lesson.

“It forced me to be disciplined,” Zhang said of her piano-learning days. She said those skills have carried over into her management of the $2.2 billion Alger Small Cap Focus Fund.

As of Wednesday, the fund’s 47% year-to-date gain was outranked by one other US portfolio in Morningstar’s coverage universe. It also beat the best-performing large-cap growth funds, mirroring how smaller companies have gained more than their larger counterparts this year; the Russell 2000 has rallied 11.5%, outperforming the S&P 500 by about 3.5 percentage points.

The small-cap space is “a fertile ground for active management,” Zhang told Business Insider in an interview on Tuesday.

For one, there are nearly nine times as many US small caps (worth between $200 million and $2 billion) as there are mega-cap companies worth more than $50 billion. This means there are far fewer analysts available to cover small-cap companies, the stocks are less liquid, and institutional ownership is less.

But in turn, this inefficiency also means that stock pickers who do the grunt work may find outsized opportunities that have fewer eyeballs.

“People ask me if I’m surprised by the performance, and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think it’s a testament to long-term stock picking investors like us,” Zhang said.

Although market cap is widely used to separate small caps from mega caps, Zhang prefers to use revenue to define company sizes — specifically those with no more than $2 billion in revenues as a starting point.

It’s all about data

From then on, companies she finds attractive tend to have one thing in common: their ability to turn data into actionable information.

Veeva Systems fit that profile.

It’s essentially a tech company for the healthcare industry, providing content-management software. Pharma and biotech companies, for example, can use Veeva’s cloud-based software to scan documents securely from mobile phones or track data during a clinical trial.

Veeva’s clients include Merck and Biogen. The company had $512 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter and earned $209.6 billion in revenues.

Although Veeva is firmly in the life-sciences arena, it also creates software for companies in the consumer-goods and chemical industries.

“There’s still lots of room for growth,” Zhang said, notwithstanding the …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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