Eighteen years ago, Professor Emeritus of Finance at Yale University, Roger Ibbotson, founded its investment management firm called Zebra Capital Management. The fund is known for relying on Professor Ibbotson’ original research, which, among many other areas, includes studies on uncommon behavioral finance derived investment approach. In simple terms, behavioral finance introduces various psychology-based theories to explain stock market deviations, trying to determine what makes people more inclined to particular financial choices. The main goal is to prevent emotion-driven risks. Professor Ibbotson, who is the current Chairman and CIO of the fund, is famous for many publications, but especially for a book called Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation: the Past and the Future, which he wrote together with Rex Sinquefield. The named book is now considered as a standard reference for those who seek valuable information on capital market returns.
Aside from his vast experience in financial research and publishing, professor Ibbotson also has ample operational and direct trading experience. Previously, he was Chairman of Ibbotson Associates and Ibbotson Associates Advisors up till they were acquired by Morningstar Inc (2006). Then, he has taken upon the role of an advisor at Morningstar Inc., where he served through 2016. Throughout his long and successful career, Professor Ibbotson won many accolades and recognition, such as the Harry M.Markovitz Award for the best paper in the Journal Investment Management (2015), and eight Graham and Dodd Scroll Awards. Professor Ibbotson earned his B.S. in Mathematics from Purdue University, his M.B.A. from Indiana University and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Zebra Capital Management grew big over time, and at the end of 2016, it held around $823 million in regulatory assets under management, while its affiliate, Zebra Advisors, held $1.22 billion. The fund operates through two main strategies – Beta Neutral Strategies and Long Only Strategies. Under Beta Neutral Strategies, the fund runs Zebra Global Equity Fund and Zebra Global Equity Advantage, whereas under Long Only Strategies it manages Zebra Japanese Equity All Cap, Zebra US Micro Cap Equity and Zebra US Small Cap Equity. Its investment philosophy is centered around looking for less popular stocks that possess strong essential features. Minimizing risks, not provoking extra volatility, and generating high returns – are the main traits of Zebra Capital Management’s strategy. Let’s take a look at some of the fund’s return figures to see what had this strategy brought back.
Since its inception in June 2010, through December 2016, its Zebra Global Equity Fund LP had an annualized return of 6.49%. It brought back an impressive 9.52% in 2013, and a solid 6.80% in the following year. In 2015 it returned even better 10.47%, while in 2016 it had a loss of 0.10%. The unfavorable trend continued and Zebra Global Equity Fund LP lost 2.93% in 2017, and 6.21% in 2018 (through October). It reported a total return of 37.70%, for a compound annual return of 3.91%, whereas its worst drawdown stood at 10.68. Its Zebra Global Equity Advantage Fund achieved an annualized return of 10.04% in 2015 (since its inception in June, through December), while in the following year it lost 2.65%. Since its launching in June 2010 through the end of 2016, its Zebra Small Cap Equity Fund delivered an annualized return 14.99%.
Insider Monkey’s flagship strategy identifies the best performing 100 hedge funds at the end of each quarter and invests in their consensus stock picks. This way it is always invested in the best ideas of the best performing hedge funds and is able to generate much higher returns than the market. Since its inception in May 2014, our flagship strategy generated a cumulative return of 89%, beating the S&P 500 ETF (SPY) by 29 percentage points (see the details here).
At the end of December 2018, Zebra Capital Management’s portfolio was valued at $161.9 million, which represented a 25.89% decrease from the previous quarter when its equity portfolio carried a value of $218.45 million. Since the fund doesn’t like to invest in most attractive stocks, it comes as no surprise to see that among its top positions there wasn’t a single stock of those 30 Most Popular Stocks Among Hedge Funds. Nonetheless, its equity portfolio was quite diversified (counting more than 350 long holdings) and the fund made some interesting changes to it during the fourth quarter of 2018. You can read more about it on the next page.