Excelsior Mid-Cap Value & Restructuring Fund (UMVEX)
This fund lands at No. 8 on the Barron's fund rankings. Managers Timothy Evnin and John McDermott look for undervalued, mid-sized companies that would benefit from restructuring or industry consolidation. The fund can invest internationally as well as domestically, and holds about 17% of assets in foreign companies. Right now, the fund's top holdings include Noble
Long-term performance has been pretty good, with the fund's 10-year annualized return of 13% helping it reach the top 6% of its peer group. However, rankings over shorter time periods are not as spectacular, with three- and five-year returns placing the fund in the top 34% and top 41%, respectively. This Excelsior fund has beaten the Russell Mid-Cap Index in six of the past 10 years, but it's trailing this year to date. The fund definitely isn't bad, but other more compelling mid-cap options are out there.
Quaker Strategic Growth (QUAGX)
This fund, run by manager Manu Daftary, boasts a great long-term track record but has hit some bumps along the way. Quaker Strategic Growth employs a rapid trading approach to investing, as evidenced by its 319% annual turnover. Daftary tends to make significant sector and asset allocation bets in an attempt to outperform the market. Right now, the fund has 60% of its assets in energy and industrial materials stocks, and boasts a 12% cash stake. Cash has been as high as 43% in the past, so investors should be prepared for a portfolio that differs from the broad market at times.
Quaker Strategic Growth's 10-year track record is at the top of the large-blend peer group, with a 16.9% annualized return. The fund has managed to beat the S&P every year since 1998, with the exception of a dismal 2006. However, the fund's expense structure keeps it from being a good choice for almost any investor. Besides a 5.50% front-end load on the fund's A shares, expenses clock in at 1.90%, much too high for investors to consider forking over hard-earned cash.
Winslow Green Growth Fund (WGGFX)
Last on the list of top 10 funds is the Winslow Green Growth Fund. This fund employs environmental screens to weed out companies deemed to be big polluters and seeks "green" companies that work at providing environmental solutions. Longtime manager Jackson Robinson is assisted by co-manager Matthew Patsky in his search for small- and mid-sized companies that have the potential for superior growth. Although turnover is somewhat high here (113%), the portfolio is diversified well and asset levels are still manageable.
Winslow Green Growth has experienced many swings in performance, from a loss of 38% in 2002 to a 92% gain in 2003, so investors should be prepared for that. The fund has posted some of the best long-term results in the small-growth category, and should stand to benefit even more if growth stocks come back into favor. The fund is not cheap, at 1.45% in expenses, and other small growth funds out there have less volatility. But if you are environmentally aware and want to invest with your conscience, this fund provides a great avenue.
A parting reminder
Of course, no matter which published list of "top" or "best" fund managers you decide to look at, remember -- you are responsible for further digging into any of the funds before buying them. Just because a business publication gives a fund top marks doesn't necessarily mean that fund will work in your portfolio. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of a mutual fund, and you won't need published rankings to tell you which funds are right for you.