Smaller Managers Best Large Peers Across Equity, Fixed Income

Investors who chose small managers for major equity and fixed-income strategies typically earned higher returns and suffered less volatility in recent years, according to eVestment data.


Smaller managers outperformed their larger counterparts across most major strategies over the last decade, according to a report from financial data provider eVestment.

The study, which tracked U.S. equity, fixed-income and global multi-asset strategies over one-, three-, five-, and seven-year periods between 2006 and 2016, found that small managers earned the highest returns in nearly every strategy over most time horizons. They also performed the best in down markets, according to the July report.

Equity strategies were generally top performers for small managers, which produced top returns across almost every strategy evaluated by eVestment, including U.S. small- and large-cap core, growth, and value funds. Their most dominant strategy was large-cap value equity, reporting the highest returns, the least volatility and lowest downside exposures.

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Across U.S. equities, performance tended to decline as assets under management expanded: the typical small manager bested the average medium-sized manager, which earned higher returns than the typical large fund. In large-cap value equity strategies, for example, small managers were the top performers 71.4 percent of the time over five-year periods, while large managers won 14.3 percent of the time, the report shows.

Only in large-cap growth equity did large managers topple smaller peers in average returns, outperforming them over three-, five-, and seven-year horizons, according to the report. Large managers also showed the least volatility and best downside performance among small-cap equity strategies.

Fixed-income strategies were more of a mixed mag, with large managers earning the highest returns in core fixed income while small managers performed best in core-plus strategies that involve more risk for potentially higher returns. High-yield was won by medium-sized managers — those with assets under management in between the 60th and 90th percentile.

Still, small fixed-income managers performed the best across the board in down markets, and suffered the least volatility in core and high-yield strategies.

The only strategies that small managers performed poorly in across every metric were hedged tactical asset allocation strategies. These global multi-asset strategies were the domain of medium-sized managers, which earned the highest returns and performed best in down markets across most time horizons.