Vanguard is probably one of the most vocal proponents of passive management in the industry today. In fact, Vanguard founder John Bogle recently reiterated his view that trying to find active managers who can beat the benchmark consistently is a waste of time. The firm is known for its stable of affordable index funds and exchange-traded funds that offer investors a chance to track various segments of the market.
But despite the firm's focus on passively managed investments, Vanguard does offer a few actively managed funds that are worth a second look from investors. Two of their best are highlighted below.
Vanguard Capital Value (VCVLX)
The Vanguard Capital Value Fund is managed by portfolio manager David Fassnacht, who has been with the fund since its inception in December 2001. Fassnacht uses an opportunistic value-oriented investment approach to find companies that are currently undervalued based on his assessment of their long-term prospects. Most often these companies have low price-to-earnings ratios and high dividend yields.
The fund also has a contrarian bent, often investing in corners of the market that most large value funds would ignore. Right now, Fassnacht is stocking up on traditional growth-oriented sectors such as hardware, media, and telecom, which collectively make up a quarter of the portfolio. Stocks such as Cisco Systems
Fassnacht has flexibility to invest across the market capitalization spectrum and does so quite frequently. Despite falling within the large value style box, the fund has about 44% of the portfolio allocated to mid-cap stocks and another 10% in small-cap stocks. Capital Value also holds a healthy slug of foreign names, with about 22% of fund assets invested abroad. Low expenses, as we have come to expect from most Vanguard funds, add to Capital Value Fund's appeal.
The fund has beaten the S&P 500 index every year except 2002, when it trailed by 6%. At 16.5%, the fund's five-year annualized return through July stands head and shoulders above the S&P 500's return of 11.8%. This showing also places it in the top 4% of its peers. Yet while the fund has performed admirably throughout its history, it missed the bear market years of 2000 and 2001, so it is difficult to tell how it would handle another sustained negative environment. If markets turn south, it is possible this fund would trail the broader market. Even so, a fine track record, experienced manager, and consistent investment process make Vanguard Capital Value a strong and reliable fund candidate.
Vanguard Global Equity (VHGEX)
Vanguard Global Equity is another first rate actively managed option, although this fund is run entirely by outside sub-advisors rather than Vanguard's in-house managers. The fund is split up among three advisory firms including Marathon Asset Management, which has been managing most of the fund since 1995; Acadian Asset Management, which has been on board since the end of 2004; and Alliance Bernstein, which was added in April 2006.
The fund invests across the globe, relying on bottom-up research to identify both growth and value stocks that management thinks will outperform. Subadvisors follow their own specific investment processes. Acadian uses a quantitative method to find stocks that, among other factors, rank high in profit growth and earnings quality. Marathon employs a contrarian value-oriented philosophy, and Alliance Bernstein has a more large-cap focused-value approach.
The fund invests in developed and emerging countries and holds 59% of its assets in foreign stocks. Roughly 23% of the fund is invested in mid- and small-cap names, adding to an already well-diversified portfolio. Outside the United States, the top country allocations are in the United Kingdom and Japan, both with roughly 9% of holdings. Multinational companies such as ING
Vanguard Global Equity has posted a 10-year annualized return of 12% through July, well ahead of the 6.3% return of the MSCI World Index during that time. This return just misses the top 10% of global fund returns over the same period. The fund has beaten its index every year for the past eight years and is well ahead of its mark so far in 2007. The fund will probably not outperform in speculative environments because of its value leanings, but it has more than held its own throughout the years. If you are looking for a global approach to investing, this fund would make an excellent addition to a mutual fund portfolio.
So while Vanguard is noted for its index-like approach to investing, these two actively-managed funds are worthy of investor attention as well. With so many cheap and solid-performing options to choose from, Vanguard has something for everyone, no matter which way your investment philosophy takes you.
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