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Wall Street Journal yesterday listed its “Category Kings” and ranked Kirr Marbach Partners Value Fund (MUTF:KMVAX) #5 out of 754 funds in the multi cap core equity fund space for Year to date return (as of 3/2/12). The fund is managed by Kirr, Marbach, & Co (KM). The story was also written up in the Republic Newspaper today and it caught our attention since we recently interviewed Mark Foster, the CIO of the firm. Below is further information on the fund and its style.

Kirr, Marbach, & Co (KM) is a value oriented investment management firm out of Columbus, Indiana.  They manage roughly $450M in assets ranging from Institutional clients to high net worth individuals, in a separate account manner.  KM is also the adviser to the Kirr Marbach Partners Value Fund (KMVAX), which is a $50M mutual fund, invested the same way as their separate accounts.  They believe in eating their own cooking, as employees have over $10M of their own assets invested in the fund.  Several studies have been done, showing that managers, who invest alongside clients, tend to outperform both the market and managers whom do not invest alongside clients.

KM likes to look for ideas where others aren’t, specifically running screens for management changes, insider buying, bankruptcy re-org situations, and spin-offs.  They tend to try and find mispriced or misunderstood businesses that are selling for a good price.  “Buying straw hats in the winter.”

KM enjoys investing from a small Midwestern town, as they are out of the hustle and bustle of New York, Boston, and San Francisco.  They believe there is a lot less market noise and often get ignored by the main wire houses, which they believe gives them an advantage to outperform.  It gives a sense of being independent and not as influenced by the hot issue of the day.  Most brokers laugh when they find out they don’t have a TV in the office, as it just creates more worthless noise to distract them from their core research approach.  Sure they subscribe to sell side research, but focus mainly on having consistent contact with company management, reading the 10 Q’s and K’s, and listening to all the company presentations.  It is a true research driven investment management firm, that essentially does little to no marketing, letting their results and word of mouth drive in their business.  KM emphasizes a bottoms up stock picking approach, with an awareness of the macro environment.

Below are some of the mutual funds’ awards:

  • 2010 Emerging Manager Monthly, All-Cap Manager of the Year
  • Ranked #1 Multi-Cap core fund for the majority of 2010, WSJ Category Kings
  • Ranked #5 Multi-Cap core fund for their YTD return (as of 3/2/12), WSJ Category Kings

(http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3024-mfm12_2_CategoryKings.html#catcore4)

  • 5 Rated Lipper Leader for Total Return Fund (KMVAX)