- Stephen Snowden is a seasoned corporate bond investor and has over 20 years' experience
- We like the manager's clear, disciplined investment process which we think could drive returns over the long term
- Snowden has delivered strong returns for investors over the long term, outperforming the corporate bond peer group with funds he's previously managed
- This fund features on our Wealth Shortlist of funds chosen by our analysts for their long-term performance potential
How it fits into a portfolio
The fund aims to generate a combination of income and growth over the long-term and could form part of a diversified bond portfolio or diversify an equity-focused portfolio. We think the fund is a good choice as part of a portfolio that has a long term view but be aware this could be more volatile than other bond funds.
Stephen Snowden has been the manager of the fund since joining Artemis to launch it in October 2019. He's a seasoned corporate bond investor though, having accumulated over 20 years' experience running similar strategies at Old Mutual and Kames. This means Snowden has navigated the corporate bond market through a range of economic conditions. We believe making use of this experience leaves him well positioned to continue his success at Artemis and our conviction lies with him. Snowden became Head of Fixed Income at Artemis in 2021 and leads a team of bond investors mostly based in Edinburgh.
Snowden has the support of co-manager Grace Le who also moved across to Artemis from Kames in December 2019 where she co-managed some bond funds.
The fund's investment process blends 'top down' macro-economic research with 'bottom up' fundamental analysis of individual companies' bonds. The macro analysis involves building up a picture of where countries are in the economic cycle as well as considering the implications of monetary and fiscal policy for key indicators like inflation and interest rates. This helps Snowden evaluate which sectors and areas of the economy could benefit from any trends or shifts that might be occurring.
This macro-economic research is combined with 'bottom up' analysis of bond-issuing companies. This helps Snowden determine which bonds are attractively priced and offer the most compelling opportunities to generate returns. Snowden also spends time meeting company management to assess both their quality and their strategy for the business. It's important for him to dig deeper into the company strategy to understand what they're trying to achieve, its implications and to ensure that it isn't likely to disadvantage bondholders.
At least 80% of the fund is invested in investment grade bonds (those with a credit rating of BBB or above) that are issued in sterling or hedged back to sterling from other currencies, like the Euro or the Dollar. The fund also has the flexibility to invest in derivatives and high yield bonds which if used adds risk. Snowden achieves diversification by owning bonds issued by a range of different companies. There are currently 119 bonds in the fund, but this number can be anywhere between 75 and 150 at any one time. Some of these bonds may be more illiquid than others, which could make them more difficult to sell.
In recent months Snowden has been active, in some areas increasing the quality of the fund’s investments without giving up much yield. This was the case with the bonds of AXA and Close Brothers where Snowden sold the companies’ subordinated bonds and bought higher quality bonds instead. He’s also managed to avoid holding the bonds of companies like Gazprom, which underperformed after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Snowden expects the heightened volatility we’ve seen so far in 2022 to continue as the year progresses. This is likely to be in part driven by concerns over the level and persistence of inflation and the rate central banks hike interest rates.
Snowden is a partner at Artemis, and Artemis is a private company. We think this structure is a good thing for investors, as both manager and firm are focused on the long term and can run funds without the distraction of short-term shareholder demands. Fund managers at Artemis are required to invest their own money into their funds, and this means they succeed when their investors do. Artemis also provides an attractive environment for fund managers, allowing them the freedom to run money how they see fit without imposing a 'house view' on them.
Snowden believes environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations have become issues investors and companies can't ignore. And that in the future, companies that encounter issues and perform poorly in these areas are likely to be viewed negatively by more and more investors and as such, have the potential to be value traps – investments that are cheap for a reason.
Investment teams at Artemis are encouraged to think for themselves and invest according to their own style, so the quality of ESG integration across the firm varies. Artemis does have a firm-wide policy to support the aims of international conventions on cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines and therefore the firm will not knowingly invest in companies which produce these weapons.
Artemis votes on all their holdings, unless restricted from doing so, and fund managers engage with firms to develop their understanding, raise issues with management and monitor subsequent developments. Artemis produces a monthly voting summary, and these summaries include rationales for some of the more controversial votes. Engagement case studies can be found in the firm’s annual Stewardship Report.
The fund has an annual ongoing charge of 0.37%, but through Hargreaves Lansdown you can secure an ongoing saving of 0.05%. This means you’ll pay a net ongoing charge of 0.32%. The fund discount is achieved through a loyalty bonus, which could be subject to tax if held outside of an ISA or SIPP. The HL platform fee of up to 0.45% per year also applies. Please note the fund takes charges from capital, which could boost the income paid, but reduce the potential for capital growth.
Snowden has delivered strong performance over the long term, outperforming the wider corporate bond peer group average. Like all fund managers though, he's had weaker periods too. He endured a tough time during the financial crisis, for instance, but bounced back reasonably well after. Please remember past performance is not a guide to future returns.
Since moving from Kames to Artemis in October 2019 and launching this fund, Snowden has performed strongly. In the initial months when coronavirus hit, the fund's positions in higher quality bonds and a rotation away from bonds issued by companies more exposed to the effects of Covid-19 helped relative performance. Snowden also managed to pick up bonds at attractive valuations during the market turmoil which have gone on to perform well.
Over the last 12 months, the fund has delivered a return of -6.51%*, falling by less than the IA £ Corporate Bond peer group average. Recent months have been tough for bond funds. The sanctions imposed by the West on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and ensuing higher commodity prices and inflation have made it a difficult environment to invest in. The manager’s kept the fund’s duration lower than its index over this period by having less exposure to the longest dated bonds which have been supported by quantitative easing and so are vulnerable to it being reduced.
Although Snowden is only in his third year working at Artemis, he's a seasoned corporate bond investor with over two decades of experience. His performance navigating bond markets over this time is the reason for our conviction in the manager.
|Annual percentage growth|
| Apr 17 -
| Apr 18 -
| Apr 19 -
| Apr 20 -
| Apr 21 -
|Artemis Corporate Bond||N/A**||N/A**||N/A**||9.38%||-6.51%|
|IA £ Corporate Bond||1.22%||3.19%||5.29%||4.93%||-7.38%|
Past performance isn't a guide to the future. Source: *Lipper IM to 30/04/2022.
**N/A - full year performance data unavailable.
Want our latest research sent direct to your inbox?
Our expert research team provide regular updates on a wide range of funds.