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Mutual fund earns industry honor

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A Columbus investment firm has received a Lipper Best Fund Award for the second straight year.

Kirr, Marbach & Co. was recognized for performance of its multi-cap core mutual fund during an awards ceremony Thursday in New York City.

The Kirr, Marbach Partners Value Fund earned the 2014 award by ranking first out of a field of 581 funds for the five-year period that ended Nov. 23, 2013.

The fund, launched on Dec. 31, 1998, also received the 2013 Lipper Best Fund Award as the best multi-cap core fund from among 647 funds for the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2012.

The Lipper Fund Awards are part of the Thomson Reuters Awards for Excellence, a global family of awards that celebrate exceptional performance throughout the professional investment community.

One fund in each Lipper classification is recognized for achieving the strongest trend of consistent risk-adjusted performance against its classification peers over a three-, five- or ten-year period.

Mark D. Foster, the fund’s portfolio manager, said winning a Lipper Award two years in row does several things for the diversified equity fund.

“It’s a big deal from the standpoint that it gets some national recognition,” Foster said. “It’s a relatively small fund, and hopefully this will provide us an opportunity to grow the fund.”

Foster, a chartered financial analyst and Kirr, Marbach’s managing partner, said winning the award also means the fund can compete with those managed by investment firms in New York and Los Angeles.

“It just shows that no matter where you are — even Columbus, Indiana — you can do the work and generate the numbers,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to compete with the bigger firms who have significantly more people.”

It’s also nice to go to New York, attend a ceremony, receive a trophy, meet fund managers from across the country and share ideas and stories, Foster said.

Kirr, Marbach, founded nearly 39 years ago, had about $658 million in assets under management as of Dec. 31. About $80 million of that is held in the Kirr, Marbach Partners Value Fund, and the rest is in private investment accounts, Foster said.

The Lipper award is based on risk-adjusted performance, which means mutual funds are judged on their returns and how much risk managers take in generating returns, Foster said.

Kirr, Marbach has a different approach in building the portfolio for its Partners Value Fund, Foster said.

“We look for the companies people aren’t paying attention to for whatever reason,” he said. “People might not like them for issues we think are temporary.”

The company also has had success investing in areas of market inefficiencies such as spin-offs, post-bankruptcy reorganizations and other corporate restructurings, Foster said.

“We are big believers in eating our own cooking,” Foster said. “We are invested alongside our fellow shareholders and are pleased our ‘slow and steady’ value approach won this race for us.”

Foster said investing in general is simple: “Buy low, sell high.”

The Kirr, Marbach Partners Value Fund is a no-load fund, which means there are no commissions costs. However, management and other expenses still apply.

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