JPMorgan SMID Cap Equity’s consistent emphasis on steady, well-positioned businesses sets it apart. After considering fees, its value proposition relative to peers is strong enough to upgrade five of the six share classes to a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver from Bronze, while the remaining one retains Bronze.
This fund gained a talented team and time-tested process as part of a November 2020 reorganization. Managers Don San Jose and Daniel Percella apply the same principles here as on JPMorgan Small Cap Equity VSEIX, extending their search to include full-fledged mid-cap stocks. They scour the market for best-in-class companies with consistently high levels of profitability that are led by management teams proved to be efficient capital allocators. They focus on companies operating in narrow niches, looking for those able to leverage their competitive positioning to protect and grow their returns on capital at rates higher than the market foresees. These traits lead them to steadier businesses such as waste disposal company Waste Connections WCN and medical supplier West Pharmaceutical WST.
A focus on durable firms makes the strategy a good bet when markets nosedive but can also make it lag during sharp market upturns such as in the first five months of 2021. The Institutional share class’ 12.9% return over that period fell in the mid-blend Morningstar Category’s bottom quartile. Its lack of exposure to stocks with greater economic sensitivity within the materials, industrials, and consumer cyclical sectors proved costly. Still, a separate account version of the fund run since 2016 has captured enough upside to deliver strong results over a longer period.
Many of the stocks the managers purchase here are also found in their small-cap charge, but they have a greater runway to let them appreciate. Such graduates include pool products distributor Pool Corp POOL and market data provider FactSet FDS. The team should do well investing in more mature businesses as the competitive advantages it seeks often become more entrenched with greater scale.