Royce Smaller-Companies Growth: Seeking Emerging Industry Leaders by The Royce Funds
Instead of betting on speculative or unsustainable growth, Portfolio Manager Chip Skinner looks for industry leaders being driven by a new product or technology that can potentially compound annually at 15% or higher. He and CEO Chuck Royce talk about the kind of emerging industries and attractive themes that Chip is looking at in Smaller-Companies Growth‘s portfolio.
Royce Smaller-Companies Growth Fund [RVPHX]
Average Annual Total Returns as of Quarter-End 6/30/15 (%)
|QTR*||YTD*||1 YR||3 YR||5 YR||10 YR||SINCE INCEPT.||DATE|
|Annual Operating Expenses: Gross 1.34% Net 1.25%|
* Not Annualized
Important Performance and Expense Information
All performance information reflects past performance, is presented on a total return basis, reflects the reinvestment of distributions, and does not reflect the deduction of taxes that a shareholder would pay on fund distributions or the redemption of fund shares. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate, so that shares may be worth more or less than their original cost when redeemed. Shares redeemed within 30 days of purchase may be subject to a 1% redemption fee, payable to the Fund, which is not reflected in the performance shown above; if it were, performance would be lower. Current month-end performance may be higher or lower than performance quoted and may be obtained here. Gross operating expenses reflect the Fund’s gross total annual operating expenses and include management fees 12-b1 distribution and service fees acquired fund fees and expenses and other expenses. All expenses are information is as of the Fund’s most current prospectus. Royce and Associates has contractually agreed to waive fees and/or reimburse operating expenses to the extent necessary to maintain the Funds net annual operating expenses (exceeding brokerage commission, taxes, interest, litigation expenses and acquired fund fees and expenses and other expenses not borne in the ordinary course of business) at or below 1.24% through April 30, 2016. Acquired fund fees and expenses reflect the estimated amount of the fees and expenses incurred indirectly by the Fund through its investment in mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, and other investment companies. All performance and risk information presented in this material prior to the commencement date of Investment Class shares on 3/15/07 reflects Service Class results. Shares of the Fund’s Service Class bear an annual distribution expense that is not borne by the Investment Class.
Chuck Royce: Chip, I’m thrilled with how well your fund is doing this year. How did this fund come about, and where does it fit in the spectrum of funds here at Royce?
Chip Skinner: Thank you Chuck. Royce Smaller-Companies Growth Fund has been around about 12 or 13 years. It started as the growthier fund within the value shop and, if anything, has shifted towards more of a “growth at a reasonable price” fund. We’ve been doing a lot of work in sort of modifying that process. I think we’re seeing much better performance as a result of that effort, but really right now I view it as the small-cap growth fund at The Royce Funds.
Chuck: This world we live in of lower rates would seem to be an ideal environment for a growth orientation. Analyzing growth companies is sometimes complex because you’re looking way out in the future. Tell me how you focus on that.
Chip: Well I think rates do play a part. I think multiples can rise in a low rate environment, but I think the low-rate structure that we have right now in the economy is partly due to the fact that the economy has not been growing at a very rapid rate. So in some sense I think finding great growth companies in a slower growing GDP period has been more challenging.
Therefore, in our Fund, we have been looking for either segments of the economy that do offer higher growth rates or megatrends, as we call them: some sort of a technology or maybe an emerging industry that provides a backdrop tailwind for faster growth. So we’ve been trying to sort of dig deeper and identify these special areas that offer faster growth. And we define growth as 15% a year growth or higher.
Chuck: Tell me a little bit about growth themes. These are economic themes in the structure of the domestic economy?
Chip: Not as much areas of the economy, even though we do look at areas of the economy to see, perhaps, how we need to be weighted from a sector standpoint. The megathemes would be more like a change in technology.
One of the themes that we’ve been focusing on is “Machine to Machine” or also known as the “Internet of Things.” This is where, if historically the Internet’s been all about connecting people to people over the telecom infrastructure, the machine-to-machine theme is more about connecting individual items or products and collecting data through a sensor on an individual product, let’s say a truck out on the road and communicating with another semiconductor chip back to the home office to generate data that helps companies make better decisions. Some of the big tech companies out there think this is the next big thing, and I actually do believe that we’re going to see millions of devices that are going to be connected to our Internet system.
Chuck: How do you handle risk in this kind of growth investment? Sometimes I think of growth companies as being riskier, but on the other hand they could be more stable.
Chip: Well I think they are generally more volatile than, let’s say, other areas of investing. Some of the things that we’re doing would include trying to identify growth, and it’s not the high-growth, momentum-type investing that maybe you see elsewhere. I’d say we’re on the conservative side of the small-cap growth spectrum.
We’re looking for more recurring revenues and repeatable sort of business models as opposed to some very high-growth, shot-in-the-dark, one-time product winner. We’re looking for companies that established themselves and have a record and a big opportunity ahead of them. We think of it as a long runway of growth where they perhaps are the industry leader in an emerging growth area and have demonstrated that they have a differentiated product and can lead the industry.
We utilize a lot of the other Royce criteria to reduce risk, including a strong balance sheet. We’re looking for quality companies that also include high returns on invested capital, and then valuation. Valuation is not what we lead with in this Fund but it is an important component, and I think we can manage risk by establishing a discipline there that perhaps we’re willing to pay a higher multiple, but in exchange we’ll be getting faster growth.
Chuck: What are your current areas that you’re finding opportunities?
Chip: We have been doing a fair amount in the healthcare space in the last year or two. Drug discovery is one of the themes that we’ve been working on. That has added to the performance.
I’d say another sort of tailwind that we’ve been pursuing would be our growth retailer and growth restaurant theme. It’s a very simple thesis. The oil prices have come down, gas prices have come down, more individuals are employed beginning sort of last year, and so these combinations of factors have given us confidence that, perhaps, consumer spending—which is the largest piece of the economy, as you know—will begin to pick up in a bigger way. So companies like Buffalo Wild Wings, which is a restaurant chain, it’s a unit growth story, a very popular restaurant chain, has done very well.
A newer idea would be The Container Store. It’s a retail brand that is well known. They have about 70 stores and they think they can have 300 stores across the U.S. So that’s a long runway of unit store growth, plus they have some other strategic efforts underway that are going to add to the growth over time.