Equities

Equity Investing

T. Rowe Price’s Global Stock Fund

December 6, 2017
Portfolio Manager David Eiswert celebrated his fifth anniversary at the helm of T. Rowe Price’s Global Stock Fund on September 30, 2017. Mr. Eiswert manages a focused portfolio of 60 to 80 quality companies where our research has discovered insights about the potential for improving economic returns.

Key Points

  • Portfolio Manager David Eiswert celebrated his fifth anniversary at the helm of T. Rowe Price’s Global Stock Fund on September 30, 2017.
  • Mr. Eiswert manages a focused portfolio of 60 to 80 quality growth companies where our research has discovered insights about the potential for improving economic returns.
  • Large- and mid-cap stocks make up the bulk of the portfolio, but Mr. Eiswert also may invest selectively in attractive small-cap opportunities.

Since taking command of the Global Stock Fund five years ago, Portfolio Manager David Eiswert has successfully employed a bottom-up approach to identify companies with improving business fundamentals that he believes have the potential to generate rapid growth in future economic returns to shareholders. In an era of technological innovation and the rapid evolution of new business models, this primarily means understanding the forces enhancing or erasing durable competitive advantage and correctly identifying the companies that stand to benefit and those that could be at risk in this process before the broader market does.

Mr. Eiswert’s goal is to outperform over the full market cycle while managing downside volatility. During Mr. Eiswert’s first five years as portfolio manager, the fund’s net asset value (NAV) achieved 472 basis points of annualized excess return over the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) (Figure 1). Over that same period, the fund ranked in the second total return percentile of the Morningstar world large stock category.1

Mr. Eiswert’s investment process is designed to take full advantage of T. Rowe Price’s research platform, which features deep coverage across both major axes of a global equity portfolio—geography and sector—from a team of 162 equity research professionals in local markets worldwide.2 Associate Portfolio Manager Josh Nelson and two dedicated analysts (one based in Baltimore and one in Hong Kong) round out the portfolio team and allow for broader and deeper interaction with the firm’s global research platform.

Since taking command of the Global Stock Fund five years ago, Portfolio Manager David Eiswert has successfully employed a bottom-up approach to identify companies with improving business fundamentals that he believes have the potential to generate rapid growth in future economic returns to shareholders.

A FOCUSED APPROACH TO GROWTH

The Global Stock Fund applies a broad definition to growth investing. The fund seeks to invest in quality companies where Mr. Eiswert and his team have discovered a specific insight about how the company’s business fundamentals might evolve in the future, potentially leading to improving economic returns to shareholders—typically quantified as their expected future ability to generate earnings and free cash flow.

This approach to growth investing can be accomplished with deep, rigorous fundamental research, which is used to identify favorable company characteristics, such as an attractive industry structure, sustainable competitive advantages, the potential for market share gains, a shareholder-focused management team, and positive change dynamics.

Mr. Eiswert’s stock selection criteria are biased toward quality companies, as defined by the durability of the business and his level of confidence in the management team. Valuations are assessed using a variety of metrics, including sales, cash flow, and earnings ratios; replacement cost; and acquisition value, but these indicators are interpreted relative to the company’s future competitive position and expected growth.

At the core of Mr. Eiswert’s approach is his belief that the global competitive landscape is being disrupted across multiple dimensions, including technological innovation, consumer preferences, and the political and regulatory climate. The key challenge for growth investors in this environment is to position themselves on the right side of change. Because competitive disruption is creating sustainable quasi-monopoly positions across a host of industries for a relatively small group of companies, investors unwilling to take appropriately sized positions in their best ideas risk missing out on the performance outcomes that can result.

In Mr. Eiswert’s view, the broader equity market typically underestimates both the potential gains for advantaged companies and the potential losses to disadvantaged companies from disruptive change. In addition, the growth of passive investment strategies often means that both groups of companies within a particular sector or industry basket are traded as a block, without regard to company fundamentals. Mr. Eiswert believes this trend is creating additional opportunities for active investors to buy attractive companies at relatively low valuations in situations where the market is behaving inefficiently.

INVESTMENT PROCESS

The Global Stock Fund’s opportunity set is defined as the full range of global large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap (at least U.S. $1 billion) stocks. Although the global developed markets represented in the MSCI World Index account for the bulk of the portfolio, emerging markets equities can have a meaningful weight as well. As of September 30, 2017, the fund had a 14% exposure to emerging markets.

To take full advantage of the potential for alpha from stock selection, portfolio positions typically are limited to 60 to 80 companies—those in which Mr. Eiswert has the highest level of conviction regarding expected future growth. As of September 30, 2017, the portfolio contained 72 stocks.

Mr. Eiswert is highly conscious of the potential for volatility in a focused portfolio, and close attention is paid to risk factors both at the security and at the overall portfolio level. This active but risk-aware approach can be seen in the fund’s relatively high active share, information ratio, and Sharpe ratio relative to the MSCI ACWI over the first five years of Mr. Eiswert’s tenure (Figure 2). During that same period, the fund captured 125% of market upside moves but only 98% of downside moves.

Key parameters of the Global Stock Fund’s investment process also include:

  • Individual positions typically ranging from 0.50% (the minimum position size) to 5% of the portfolio.
  • Country exposures typically within +/-10 percentage points of the MSCI ACWI. Economic sector weights typically range within +/-15 percentage points of the MSCI ACWI.
  • A U.S. dollar-based portfolio, generally unhedged. Currency views are incorporated into stock selection.
  • A tracking error target of 400 to 800 basis points relative to the MSCI ACWI.3

PORTFOLIO POSITIONING

Reflecting Mr. Eiswert’s intensive focus on company fundamentals, stock selection has been the fund’s primary source of excess return during his tenure (Figure 3). The investment time horizon is typically 12 to 24 months, or when Mr. Eiswert believes his fundamental thesis and return expectations are fully reflected in the stock price. Sell discipline is primarily based on three situations:

  • successful completion of an investment thesis,
  • recognition that a thesis is broken, or
  • displacement of a position due to a more attractive opportunity.

Although stock selection has been Mr. Eiswert’s primary source of value added, his emphasis on disruptive change has resulted in the Global Stock Fund owning more positions in sectors that are experiencing disruption through innovation and rapid shifts in relative competitiveness. These currently include the technology, consumer discretionary, and health care sectors (Figure 4). However, Mr. Eiswert’s broad approach to seeking companies with improving future returns has resulted in solid performance in less obvious areas for traditional growth investors, such as financials and industrials.

T. Rowe Price’s extensive global research platform, coupled with an investment process that is focused on gleaning bottom-up insights into improving returns, provides Mr. Eiswert with the tools to seek out companies that he believes are more likely to be industry survivors over time.

MARKET OUTLOOK

Through the first nine months of 2017, global equity performance was driven largely by growth companies, especially those leveraged to China or other emerging markets. However, because the growth factor has worked so well, markets have become more difficult to navigate, leading Mr. Eiswert to grow a bit more cautious about the equity outlook.

Many of the secular growth companies that Mr. Eiswert identified in recent years have performed well but now have become increasingly crowded trades. While the fund continues to own some of these companies, Mr. Eiswert is always looking to find new opportunities. Currently, he remains wary of names that are potentially subject to structural challenges but thinks it may be worthwhile to be carefully contrarian in select industries. Traditional U.S. consumer companies, especially those that have brand relationships with their customers that can drive traffic to their stores over time, potentially offer one of the more intriguing potential opportunities, in his view.

T. Rowe Price’s extensive global research platform, coupled with an investment process that is focused on gleaning bottom-up insights into improving returns, provides Mr. Eiswert with the tools to seek out companies that he believes are more likely to be industry survivors over time. This gives him the confidence to invest in areas currently out of favor before their potential becomes obvious to other investors.

ABOUT MR. EISWERT

David Eiswert has been the portfolio manager for the Global Stock Fund since October 1, 2012. Prior to his current role, Mr. Eiswert was the portfolio manager for the Global Technology Fund from October 2008 until May 2012. He was a technology analyst from 2003 until 2012. Mr. Eiswert has 17 years of investment experience, 14 of which have been with T. Rowe Price. Prior to joining the firm in 2003, he was an analyst at Mellon Growth Advisors and Fidelity Management and Research. He also worked as a consultant in the communications industry. Mr. Eiswert earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in economics and political science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an M.A. in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park. He also has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

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1For the world large stock category, the Global Stock Fund ranked 9 out of 583 funds in the Morningstar database with performance records through the five years ending September 30, 2017. The Global Stock Fund ranked 109 of 842 funds (13th percentile) for the year ended September 30, 2017; 13 of 703 funds (2nd percentile) for the three years ended September 30, 2017; and 113 of 320 funds (35th percentile) for the 10 years ended September 30, 2017. Morningstar rankings are based on average annual total returns.

213 sector portfolio managers, 95 research analysts, 45 associate research analysts, 6 quantitative analysts, and 3 specialty analysts as of September 30, 2017.

3The tracking error target is not a formal objective, and it can be changed without prior notice at any time. There is no assurance that the target will be met.

Important Information

Funds that invest in growth stocks are subject to the volatility inherent in common stock investing, and their share price may fluctuate more than that of a fund investing in income-oriented stocks. With concentrated positions, poor performance by a single issuer could adversely affect fund performance. International investments can be riskier than U.S. investments due to the adverse effects of currency exchange rates, differences in market structure and liquidity, as well as specific country, regional, and economic developments. These risks are generally greater for investments in emerging markets.

This material is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investment advice or a recommendation to take any particular investment action.

The views contained herein are those of the authors as of November 2017 and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price associates.

Active share: A measure of the degree to which a fund’s portfolio differs from its benchmark, both in terms of the securities held and the weights of those holdings within the portfolio. Active share is expressed as a percentage; the lower the percentage, the more the fund portfolio differs from the benchmark.

Annualized alpha: Measures the difference between a fund’s historical return and what would have been expected based on its exposure to market risk, showing the value added or subtracted by the fund’s manager. Annualizing the results allows comparisons across different periods of time.

Beta: A measure of a fund’s exposure to market risk relative to a broad benchmark. A beta greater than 1.00 indicates the fund historically has been more volatile than the market.

Information ratio: A measure of a fund’s risk-adjusted performance, with risk defined as the degree to which the fund’s returns have differed from its benchmark’s returns (known as tracking error or active risk). The higher the information ratio, the more value the fund has added per unit of active risk.

R-squared: The statistical validity of the return relationship between a fund and its benchmark, measured on a scale of 0 to 1.00. The higher the R-squared, the more the fund’s returns historically have been linked to the benchmark’s returns.

Sharpe ratio: A measure of risk-adjusted performance, calculated as the difference between the fund’s return and the return on cash, divided by the fund’s volatility. The higher the Sharpe ratio, the better the risk-adjusted performance.

Tracking error: The difference (positive or negative) between a fund’s return and the return for its benchmark, often expressed as the volatility of return differences over time. Also known as active risk.

This information is not intended to reflect a current or past recommendation, investment advice of any kind, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any securities or investment services. The opinions and commentary provided do not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any particular investor or class of investor. Investors will need to consider their own circumstances before making an investment decision.

Source for Morningstar data: ©2017 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Morningstar information contained herein: (1) is proprietary to Morningstar and/or its content providers; (2) may not be copied or distributed; and (3) is not warranted to be accurate, complete, or timely. Neither Morningstar nor its content providers are responsible for any damages or losses arising from any use of this information. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Information contained herein is based upon sources we consider to be reliable; we do not, however, guarantee its accuracy.

Past performance cannot guarantee future results. All investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of principal. All charts and tables are shown for illustrative purposes only.