The last few years were a terrible time to be the manager of an emerging-market stock fund -- unless you were Anindya Chatterjee.
Since Chatterjee started the City National Rochdale Emerging Markets Fund on Dec. 14, 2011, he returned 53 percent for investors, even as emerging market stocks declined 0.5 percent. This year, with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index slumping 14 percent, Chatterjee’s $827 million fund is down 3.1 percent, beating 90 percent of peers for the fourth straight year.
It’s far and away the best four-year performance among 67 U.S.-based emerging-market stock funds with at least $500 million in assets. Chatterjee outperformed by focusing exclusively on Asian companies in a position to benefit from the rise of consumer spending. He targets China, India and other places where millions are entering the middle class and buying everything from mobile phones to sneakers.
“We’re in the sweet spot,” Chatterjee said in an interview. “Whether it is toothpaste or cars, people are spending more money as their incomes grow.”
Emerging-market stocks have been dragged down by the slowing of the Chinese economy, the collapse of commodity prices and fears that higher U.S. interest rates will siphon capital from developing economies.
Some investors think the selloff is overdone. “In 35 years of covering these markets, I can’t recall such blanket bearishness,” Allan Conway, who helps manage $23 billion in emerging and frontier market equities at Schroder Investment Management, said this month in an interview. “We are ripe for a significant rally.”
Chatterjee, 46, has been following Asian markets for the past 20 years and has worked in Singapore, Hong Kong and Mumbai. A native of Calcutta, India, he joined City National Rochdale after stints at Jefferies Group and Bear Stearns and two years as head of U.S. operations for IIFL Inc., an Indian brokerage firm.
Focus on Asia
While Chatterjee’s fund can invest in any emerging market, he said he sticks to Asia because it has greater potential and better demographics. Chinese stocks accounted for 42 percent of the portfolio as of Sept. 30, according to City National Rochdale’s website. Indian stocks were 26 percent of the total. That helped him avoid some of the most troubled emerging markets like Brazil, where stocks have tumbled 12 percent in 2015 and 28 percent over the past three years.
He also largely avoided the global slump in commodities including metals and oil. The fund had 1.9 percent of its assets in energy companies and 3.6 percent in materials stocks as of Sept. 30.