FPA Crescent is a Winning Active Fund

“There is no index fund—or other active fund, for that matter—that behaves like Crescent,” writes Morningstar’s John Rekenthaler.

The article explains that Crescent’s asset allocation over time contributes to its uniqueness. While on the surface it appears fairly standard–56% equities, 44% bonds—the difference lies in the timing exercised by fund manager Steve Romick. Rekenthaler describes, for example, how Romick built up cash during the financial crisis and then “quickly put some of that protection back to work. Over the next six months, he reinvested 7 percentage points’ worth of his cash into securities that rebounded sharply from their lows.”

The fund manager has also manipulated his fixed-income position, “sometimes favoring relatively risky bonds, at other times preferring the safety of cash.” Romick’s bond holdings were extremely low through 2008, writes Rekenthaler, then surged to 30% in early 2009—currently, bond holdings are “modest.”

The article summarizes Romick’s approach as follows: “Crescent owns several types of assets rather than one; it varies that asset mix over time, sometimes dramatically; the sector weightings of its stocks often differ sharply from those of any index, and they too vary over time; and, finally, its stock selection is idiosyncratic.” Rekenthaler argues that this approach sets Crescent apart from most index funds and allows it to “forestall competition from active funds that use algorithms—unless such funds can somehow replicate what lies inside Romick’s head.”