With an ever-growing list of similar-sounding mutual funds to choose from, finding the best is an increasingly difficult task. How can investors change the game to shift the odds in their favor?
Don’t Trust Mutual Fund Labels
There are at least 948 different All Cap Value mutual funds and at least 5,816 style-based mutual funds across twelve styles. Do investors need 484+ choices on average per style? How different can the mutual funds be?
Those 948 All Cap Value mutual funds are very different. With anywhere from 17 to 1,238 holdings, many of these All Cap Value mutual funds have drastically different portfolios with differing risk profiles and performance outlooks.
The same is true for the mutual funds in any other style, as each offers a very different mix of good and bad stocks. Large Cap Value ranks first for stock selection. Small Cap Growth ranks last. Details on the Best & Worst mutual funds in each style are here.
Avoiding Analysis Paralysis
We think the large number of style mutual funds hurts investors more than it helps. Manually conducting a deep analysis on a mutual fund-by-mutual fund basis is simply not a realistic option, exposing investors to insufficient analysis and missing profitable opportunities. Analyzing mutual funds, with the proper diligence, is far more difficult than analyzing stocks because it means analyzing all the stocks within each mutual fund. As stated above, there can be as many as 1,238 stocks or more for one mutual fund.
Anyone focused on fulfilling the fiduciary duty of care recognizes that analyzing the holdings of a mutual fund is critical to finding the best mutual fund. More reliable & proprietary fundamental data, proven in The Journal of Financial Economics, drives our research and analysis of fund holdings and provides investors with a new source of alpha. Figure 1 shows our top-rated mutual fund for each style.
Figure 1: The Best Mutual Fund in Each Style
* Best mutual funds exclude funds with TNAs less than $100 million for inadequate liquidity
Sources: New Constructs, LLC and company filings
Amongst the mutual funds in Figure 1, Northern Lights FormulaFolios U.S. Equity Fund (FFILX) ranks first overall, DWS CROCI Equity Dividend Fund (KDHTX) ranks second, and Clipper Fund (CFIMX) ranks third. Virtus KAR Small Cap Core Fund (VSCRX) ranks last.
How to Avoid “The Danger Within”
Why do you need to know the holdings of mutual funds before you buy?
You need to be sure you do not buy a fund that might blow up. Buying a fund without analyzing its holdings is like buying a stock without analyzing its business and finances. No matter how cheap, if it holds bad stocks, the mutual fund’s performance will be bad. Don’t just take my word for it, see what Barron’s says on this matter.
PERFORMANCE OF FUND’S HOLDINGS = PERFORMANCE OF FUND
Analyzing each holding within funds is no small task. Our Robo-Analyst technology enables us to perform this diligence with scale and provide the research needed to fulfill the fiduciary duty of care. More of the biggest names in the financial industry (see At BlackRock, Machines Are Rising Over Managers to Pick Stocks) are now embracing technology to leverage machines in the investment research process. Technology may be the only solution to the dual mandate for research: cut costs and fulfill the fiduciary duty of care. Investors, clients, advisors and analysts deserve the latest in technology to get the diligence required to make prudent investment decisions.
If Only Investors Could Find Funds Rated by Their Holdings
Northern Lights FormulaFolios U.S. Equity Fund (FFILX) is not only the top-rated All Cap Blend mutual fund, but is also the overall top-ranked style mutual fund out of the 5,816 style mutual funds that we cover.
The worst mutual fund in Figure 1 is Virtus KAR Small Cap Core Fund (VSCRX), which still gets an Attractive rating.
This article originally published on April 28, 2022.
Disclosure: David Trainer, Kyle Guske II, and Matt Shuler receive no compensation to write about any specific stock, style, or theme.
 Harvard Business School features the powerful impact of our research automation technology in the case New Constructs: Disrupting Fundamental Analysis with Robo-Analysts.