What is the outlook for small cap funds and trusts?

Sam Slator 07/06/2022 in Global, Investment Trusts

Stock markets generally have had a tough start to the year, with many company share prices tumbling due to worries over inflation, interest rates and conflict in Europe.

Smaller companies have felt the pain most and have underperformed their larger company peers in every developed market*, as shown in the table below.

MarketLarge cap performance YTD*Small cap performance YTD*
Europe ex UK-9.6%-13.4%

But that’s to be expected, according to FundCalibre’s Darius McDermott. “It’s what tends to happen when investors are worried,” he said.

“In normal market conditions – when markets go up or sideways – smaller companies usually do better, particularly over the long term. They have room to grow and are often easier to manage and control.

“But when investors are worried and move into less riskier assets, smaller companies are usually the part of their portfolio they sell first.”

Is now the time to invest in smaller companies?

In the short term, the outlook isn’t great for smaller companies, because if anything, uncertainty is increasing. There are even concerns that we could be heading into a recession. “But we may look back and see now as having been a good time to invest, as current valuations are a lot cheaper, and these funds and companies should do well over the long term,” said Darius.

“There are also fewer financial analysts that cover small caps, and thousands of companies to pick from, so it’s a fertile ground for a good active manager,” he continued. “UK smaller companies in particular are one of the few sectors where the average fund consistently beats its benchmark – and the good ones smash it.”

Of course, this area of the market could continue to get cheaper as the world works through its problems, so one way to invest early in smaller companies without risking a large sum of money, is to invest little and often through regular monthly savings.

What role can a small-cap fund or trust play in an investment portfolio?

Smaller companies can be an excellent long-term growth engine for a portfolio. They typically deliver some of the best long-term returns, but they do come with higher risk.

“If you are a moderate or balanced equity investor, you may still want an allocation of around 10%,” said Darius. “If you are more aggressive, you’ll want more. We find that some investors also tend to invest more in smaller companies for their children as they have a longer time frame.”

How to pick a fund

“If you are looking to invest in a smaller companies investment trust, like BMO Global Smaller Companies, you ideally want to buy it on a discount when sentiment is depressed,” said Darius. At the time of writing (9 June 2022), this Elite Rated Trust happens to be trading on a discount of 11% to its net asset value**, for example – much lower than its long-term average.

“That said, watch out for tiny illiquid trusts trading on a permanent discount,” continued Darius. “Above all though, avoid paying a big premium.

“For both funds and trusts, make sure they are well diversified, look for a manager with a good long-term track record and a decent sized or experienced in-house research team as small caps are not well covered by external analysts. Your team needs to do company meetings and have bodies on the ground.

“Smaller companies are higher risk though, so investors need to be prepared for periods of volatility.”

Elite Rated smaller companies funds to consider

FundCalibre has 21 Elite Rated and Radar funds and trusts which invest in smaller companies. Here is a selection:

ASI Global Smaller Companies

Using a powerful screening tool called ‘Matrix’, which co-manager Harry Nimmo helped create, the managers of this fund identify smaller companies from all around the globe – including emerging markets – that they believe to have the best growth prospects. The portfolio is concentrated in 50-60 names.

Search all Elite Rated Global Smaller Companies funds

TM Tellworth UK Smaller Companies

Launched in November 2018, this is a pure smaller companies fund run by two very experienced and highly regarded managers, Paul Marriage and John Warren. It focuses on smaller companies, avoiding micro-caps and mid cap stocks and meeting company management is integral to the investment process.

Search all Elite Rated UK Smaller Companies funds

T. Rowe Price European Smaller Companies Equity

This fund is pan-European, also investing in the UK. The team’s universe of stocks is less well covered by the asset management industry giving the manager plenty of scope to find unloved and undervalued companies. Buying early or in a contrarian fashion with a long-term view allows him to compound his winners.

Search all Elite Rated European Smaller Companies funds

Artemis US Smaller Companies

While stock selection is paramount on this fund, the overall shape of Artemis US Smaller Companies will reflect the manager’s view of the US economy. Investing mainly in US small caps, but also with a tilt to mid-caps, manager Cormac Weldon uses multiple sources of information to generate ideas and to validate and test candidate companies for investment.

Search all Elite Rated US Smaller Companies funds

Federated Hermes Global Emerging Markets SMID Equity

This fund focuses on small and medium-sized companies across global emerging markets. The manager looks for quality companies that are exhibiting compound growth and that earn more than their cost of capital over the long-term. Alongside this, he will want talented management, who act responsibly towards clients, stakeholders and minority shareholders.

Search all Elite Rated Global Emerging Markets Smaller Companies funds

Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon

This trust aims to provide long-term capital growth by investing in smaller companies listed on the Japanese stock market. Shin Nippon means ‘new Japan’ and this trust focuses on emerging or disrupted sectors, where the manager sees innovative growth opportunities. The team are prepared to bide their time while these companies reach their full potential

Search all Elite Rated Japanese Smaller Companies funds

*Source: T. Rowe Price Weekly Market Recap, 6 June 2022. Using the following indexes: S&P 500, Russell 2000, Euro STOXX 50, MSCI Europe ex UK Small Cap, FTSE 100, FTSE Small Capitalisation, TOPIX, TOPIX Small
**Source: The Association of Investment Companies, 9 June 2022, over 10 years


This article is provided for information only. The views of the author and any people quoted are their own and do not constitute financial advice. The content is not intended to be a personal recommendation to buy or sell any fund or trust, or to adopt a particular investment strategy. However, the knowledge that professional analysts have analysed a fund or trust in depth before assigning them a rating can be a valuable additional filter for anyone looking to make their own decisions.Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns. Market and exchange-rate movements may cause the value of investments to go down as well as up. Yields will fluctuate and so income from investments is variable and not guaranteed. You may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax treatment depends of your individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. If you are unsure about the suitability of any investment you should seek professional advice.Whilst FundCalibre provides product information, guidance and fund research we cannot know which of these products or funds, if any, are suitable for your particular circumstances and must leave that judgement to you. Before you make any investment decision, make sure you’re comfortable and fully understand the risks. Further information can be found on Elite Rated funds by simply clicking on the name highlighted in the article.