After leaving Kenya for London in the 1970s, Vikram Kumar’s father opened a commodities trading business, driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that he’d pass on to his son. In 2013, Kumar, a portfolio manager at TT International, sold the London-based hedge fund firm on his idea for a new investment strategy that aims to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market for European midsize companies. The $500 million TT Long/Short Focus Fund returned 26.8 percent last year, while most hedge funds took a wallop.
Kumar, 35, assembled a team of four professionals he knew and respected from outside $6.4 billion TT. Together they use their stock-picking expertise in consumer products, industrials and technology, media and telecommunications to capitalize on short-termism in and poor coverage of European midcaps. Kumar’s crew likes to make longer-term bets than many funds; although its investments lost 2.7 percent in 2014, they came back with a vengeance last year, putting Long/Short Focus up nearly 35 percent since inception.
The fund’s largest holding is Dutch GPS and navigation software maker TomTom, a choice motivated by the importance of navigation systems for the driverless cars of the future. Long/Short Focus dropped 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2016 — a loss that Kumar attributes to profit taking on its best-performing long bets — but its core short portfolio has gained 11 percent since inception, versus an 18 percent rise in the benchmark STOXX 600 Europe Index.
Kumar began his career at UBS in 2003 after graduating from the University of Cambridge, where he studied history and management and played cricket. By late 2007, with the global financial crisis in full bloom, he was director of the European midcap equity sales team for the Swiss bank, but he wanted to try his hand at money management rather than dole out advice in a bear market. So Kumar left to join client TT at the beginning of 2008; as co-manager of the firm’s $800 million TT Mid-Cap Europe Long/Short Fund, he first demonstrated his star qualities by guiding the fund to a 15.5 percent gain that year.
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