Anthony Smouha and Grégoire Mivelaz, co-fund managers of credit strategies (Atlanticomnium SA.)
One major theme for our team in 2018 is the European financial subordinated debt: on-going regulatory pressure is forcing banks and insurance companies to further build up and strengthen their equity buffers making these instruments stronger and safer. But it is important to note that one has to be very selective and manage the portfolio actively, as even some of the big, established companies can potentially fail in a strong sector as we saw last year with the example of Banco Popular.
Automation and robotics
Ernst Glanzmann, portfolio manager for Japanese equities
One of the top themes for Japan in 2018 will be more work process improvement due to an ever tighter labour market. Companies will be eager to contain cost pressure as much as possible. One way of doing this is by further standardising processes through the application of IT-based solutions – automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things, etc. – as well as allowing people to work shorter days and weeks, something that is valued very highly.
The Chinese consumers
Jian Shi Cortesi, portfolio manager for China and Asia equity strategies
Our top theme for 2018 remains Chinese consumers. One big trend in this and the next decade is China’s economic evolution towards a consumer-driven economy. In our China and Asian growth funds, we continue to focus on companies that benefit disproportionally from China’s economic evolution. These companies – which can be found mainly in the consumer, technology, healthcare and financial services sectors – continue to experience fast growth. In these rapidly growing industries, we are able to find attractively priced names through careful stock picking.
Thomas Funk, portfolio manager for Swiss equities
For 2018 we continue to be laser focused on growth. With growth we do not mean a focus on short-term quarterly numbers, but rather growth over medium-to-long term time horizons. We have a good number of companies in the portfolio that are investing now for future success. Being patient and following the long-term plan, while also being able to deliver on the short-term goals, is one of the key attributes of really well managed companies. And these are the exact companies we aim to find and invest in.
Eurozone demand recovery
Niall Gallagher, investment director for European equities
We have two key investment themes underpinning our stock selection process. On the one hand, we have exposure to long-term secular growth trends; this means emerging market consumption growth, transfer from the physical to the online world, and disruption of whole industries through new technology. On the other hand, however, our medium-term focus – the one with more potential to drive returns in 2018 – is our positive and above consensus stance on European domestic demand. We are positioned to benefit from a Eurozone demand recovery through select key holdings in building and construction materials, consumer spending and business investment. We believe the risk / reward profile is highly skewed to the upside, with multi-year recovery potential.