Emerging markets are becoming a more accessible asset class for investors keen to tap the lucrative returns they can bring, regardless of their budget or degree of specialist knowledge on 'exotic' investment locations.
Today's investors have ready access to emerging markets, from Eastern Europe to Asia and Brazil, through a number of funds. Allan Conway, head of emerging market equities for Schroders, talks about the Schroder ISF Global Emerging Market Opportunities Fund.
Which countries does the Emerging Market Opportunities Fund focus on? The fund doesn't focus on any particular country or group of countries. Instead, it focuses on the six or so best emerging countries that come out of our quantitative country selection process, which changes over time. The fund is able to invest in any emerging market country. Currently, the fund is focused on five of the six most favoured markets that were identified at the last strategy meeting. These markets are Brazil, Egypt, Russia, Thailand and Turkey.
What does the scheme actually invest in? The fund primarily invests in equities. But it can buy emerging market bonds as well. It is also able to buy global bonds of up to 30 per cent and take up to 30 per cent cash as a defensive measure.
Is it possible to adopt a longer term view of emerging markets? Yes. Emerging markets are enjoying the full fruits of globalisation, which is setting them on a path to eventual convergence with developed markets. We believe this allows a superior growth path over the long term. Many emerging countries have also seen a dramatic improvement in their economic structure. Foreign reserves have risen sharply, debt has been reduced significantly and inflation is well under control. This fundamental underpinning supports the medium to long-term positive case for this asset class.
What sorts of returns can investors in this fund expect? The fund targets a return of 15 per cent a year over three-year rolling periods.
What fundamentals do you consider when assessing an emerging market? We assess countries on a quantitative basis. We look at data covering several different areas such as valuation metrics, growth expectations, current account and currency valuations, interest rates and technical factors. The quantitative model is run monthly, and the output is reviewed at an asset allocation meeting. During this meeting we will discuss each market in turn.
The discussion will focus on our views of the market in question and will include non-quantitative factors such as politics. We then decide whether or not to follow the recommendation of our quantitative model or to amend it. In most cases when there is an amendment, it will be in terms of magnitude rather than direction.
Which country will be the next 'big thing'? There are one or two possible candidates, for example the Middle East looks interesting in the medium to long term, but we don't think that the 'last big thing' BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is finished yet. The BRIC countries still have all the long-term argument about demographics and economic
reform on their side, and in recent months have emerged as the key driver for global growth. For
example, it is estimated that the BRIC economies now generate one third of global growth. That story is not finished yet.