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Best multi-cap mutual fund managers 2021

Best multi-cap mutual fund managers 2021

20 Sep 2021

Even the most seasoned professionals at asset management companies don’t profess to make sense of what has transpired in the past 18-odd months. However, these equity market mavens have drawn on years of experience and kept calm in the face of the storm. In this year’s ET Wealth-Morningstar Fund Manager Rankings, we shine the spotlight on a few battle-hardened commanders who have skillfully negotiated the onslaught. These individuals rank among the top money managers for helping investors build wealth with a firm eye on risk. Our study looks at the five-year track record of equity schemes and identifies the best performers across three distinct categories on the basis of risk-adjusted returns.

A closer look at the handiwork of these achievers reveals a few common threads. Sticking to core investing philosophy at all times comes front and center for generating sustainable long-term wealth. Many have also placed firm emphasis on limiting drawdowns rather than chasing immediate glory by riding momentum. At the same time, some have acknowledged changing circumstances and showed a willingness to adapt to new realities with deft realignments. Read on to know how the gatekeepers at mass-market equity funds have managed to grow the wealth pie for investors through the market ups and downs.

Also Read: Best equity mutual fund managers 2021: Ranking by ET-Wealth-Morningstar

1. Rajeev Thakkar

Rajeev Thakkar

Age: 48 Years

Education: B. Com. (Bombay University), Chartered Accountant, CFA Charter Holder, Grad ICWA

Experience: 20 years

5-Year asset weighted return: 20%

Average 5-year AUM: Rs 2,564 cr

Risk adjusted returns: 1.09

Fund managed: Parag Parikh Flexicap

AUM (Rs Cr): 13,187

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 22.84
  • 5-Year: 20.53


Rajeev Thakkar insists the move towards digital transformation had begun well before the pandemic hit; it only got accelerated after that. His early move into this space benefited the fund immensely. Amid woes in the financial services space, Thakkar shifted away from lending-based businesses to fee-based companies. He has also avoided landmines amid the pandemic-led shake-up by staying away from weaker, leveraged businesses. Thakkar’s fund occasionally uses cash as a shield during market excesses. This allowed him to quickly deploy 10-12% cash during the market crash last year. However, as fresh ideas have become scarce, the cash position has crept up again. Meanwhile, another lever Thakker leans on heavily is the allocation to foreign equities. He insists these players remain well positioned to capture opportunities from the transition to the digital space.

Quick take

My reading of the market

Good news and good valuations seldom go hand in hand. In March and April of 2020, the headlines were very bleak and the valuations were very attractive. Today, there is clarity in terms of the vaccination path and the subsequent opening up of and normalisation of life. Western countries already have some semblance of normalcy. Given this environment, valuations in the market have gone up significantly. It is a time to be selective in the purchases that one makes as there are many pockets of overvaluation.

How my fund is positioned

The Parag Parikh Flexicap Fund does not chase transient fads like the reopening of trade and businesses or some of the newly listed excessively valued companies. We are sticking to companies that have a good management pedigree, good business characteristics and reasonable valuations. Wherever we find discomfort in terms of valuations, we are trimming our holdings and may see some increase in cash holding over time.

Top sector bets and top stock picks

01 Top Bets

Also Read: Best large cap mutual fund managers 2021

2. Neelesh Surana

Neelesh Surana

Age: 52 Years

Education: Engineering graduate with MBA in Finance

Experience: 26 years

5-Year asset weighted return: 21.0%

Average 5-year AUM: Rs 9,806 cr

Risk adjusted returns: 0.90

Fund managed: Mirae Asset Emerging Bluechip

AUM (Rs Cr): 19,568

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 22.01
  • 5-Year: 20.74

Fund managed: Mirae Asset Tax Saver

AUM (Rs Cr): 8,739

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 19.45
  • 5-Year: 20.17


Neelesh Surana has avoided riding the momentum in inferior businesses as well as overpaying for good businesses. A large chunk of his fund is geared to benefit from longer term structural revival. This has ensured the portfolio is able to weather intermittent disruption. At the same time, he retains some portion in beaten down value plays that are nicely priced to capitalise from cyclical recovery. Surana insists that the market opportunity is skewed towards larger businesses and hence steered towards bigger franchises in both large- and midcap segments. The low cost of capital will drive huge upside in earnings and valuation in these businesses, Surana points out.

Quick take

My reading of the market

The economy is stabilising post volatility caused by the pandemic. Our view remains constructive, driven by improving earnings outlook, low cost of capital and fair valuations. Markets have been holding firm, having partly discounted the likely cyclical and structural revival in earnings. Investors should follow a balanced allocation and remain committed for the long term.

How my fund is positioned

We follow a two-pronged approach. Our core portfolio is invested in high quality businesses, up to reasonable valuation. At the other end of the spectrum, we have also participated in “deep-in-value” opportunities. Sectorally, fund is positioned to capitalise on secular growth opportunities in BFSI, consumer and outsourcing themes.

Top sector bets and top stock picks

02 Top Bets

Also Read: Best mid- and small-cap mutual fund managers 2021

3. Ajay Tyagi

Ajay Tyagi

Age: 42 Years

Education: Masters in Finance, CFA Chartered holder

Experience: 21 years

5-Year asset weighted return: 17.3%

Average 5-year AUM: Rs 8,755 cr

Risk adjusted returns: 0.75

Fund managed: UTI Flexi Cap

AUM (Rs Cr): 20,922

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 18.19
  • 5-Year: 16.96


Ajay Tyagi’s investing philosophy rests on two pillars—buying businesses that create economic value and growing it sustainably. He insists it takes a lot of conviction to stay true to this path. The real test of a business’s character is when the chips are down and that is why he emphasizes on companies with strong track record of profitability, ability to defend market share and cash flow generation across cycles. Concentration within portfolio is like a fair-weather friend, Tyagi insists, but does not like to overdiversify either. No matter how good one is at stock picking, some company-specific blunders are bound to happen. He contends that markets are never at fair value but firmly believes that so long as one is riding the right kind of businesses, the value creation will eventually catch up.

Quick take

My reading of the market

Markets are pricing in a strong revival in earnings in the near future and some of it is reflecting in the strength shown by businesses. Management commentary continues to be optimistic and consumer sentiment has been holding up well. The demand trajectory over the coming months remains an important factor to be monitored as India will gradually enter a festival period which has historically seen pick-up in consumption. This is particularly important as valuations are about 20% higher than average and hence any disappointment in earnings growth can lead to derating.

How my fund is positioned

We follow a bottom up approach to portfolio construction. We don’t churn our portfolio much and hold investments for fairly long periods. We have been and continue to remain bullish on businesses in the healthcare, consumption, private banks and information technology sectors.

Top sector bets and top stock picks

03 Top Bets

Also Read: Mutual fund managers who have delivered good risk-adjusted return over the long run

4. Vinay Paharia

Vinay Paharia

Age: 41 Years

Education: B. Com, M.M.S.

Experience: 19 years

5-Year asset weighted return: 16.8%

Average 5-year AUM: Rs 497 cr

Risk adjusted returns: 0.73

Fund managed: Union Flexi Cap

AUM (Rs Cr): 645

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 16.37
  • 5-Year: 14.19

Fund managed: Union Long Term Equity

AUM (Rs Cr): 391

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 15.78
  • 5-Year: 13.03


Across his stints at two different fund houses in the past five years, Paharia has navigated different circumstances. As CIO at Union Mutual Fund, he has found comfort driving a company-wide process refined to his approach. He observes that recent years have seen investor time horizons get shorter and performance anxiety increase. Managing these short-term expectations has become a challenge. What helps in this environment is the discipline to stick to the established processes. At times, good businesses do not do well as cycles change but sticking to them in good and bad times is key to creating long-term wealth, Paharia insists. The fund’s mandate is to be flexible in market cap positioning and he has harnessed this leeway to the hilt to navigate changing market conditions. Preferring a growth biased portfolio, he remains valuation conscious but shuns a simplistic reliance on the price-earnings metric in favour of a fair-value approach to stock picking.

Quick take

My reading of the market

The markets are trading at a premium to its current fair value. We have borrowed some returns from the future. Economic growth is expected to remain buoyant from the second quarter of this financial year, which in turn could result in good growth in the fair value of companies.

How my fund is positioned

We have invested a larger proportion in large caps. Our in-house fair value approach is used to select quality companies and employs a quanta-mental approach to construct optimal portfolios.

Top sector bets and top stock picks

04 Top Bets

5. R. Srinivasan

R. Srinivasan

Age: 50 Years

Education: M.Com & MFM

Experience: 28 years

5-Year asset weighted return: 16.7%

Average 5-year AUM: Rs 5,507 cr

Risk adjusted returns: 0.73

Fund managed: SBI Focused Equity Fund

AUM (Rs Cr): 17,847

Annualised returns (%)

  • 3-Year: 16.57
  • 5-Year: 16.07


Despite the aggressive stance underlining its mandate, R. Srinivasan’s core philosophy behind SBI Focused Equity remains similar to the small-cap offering. It was run as a compact portfolio even in its earlier avatar as SBI Emerging Businesses. Srinivasan remains fully invested at all times, shunning any kind of cash calls. The portfolio is significantly active, agnostic to the benchmark index. The preference remains for long-term compounding stories run by good managements. While the fund has remained sector agnostic, it is no longer market cap agnostic— tilting towards the large- cap space given the growth in the fund’s asset base. Further, the fund has now started investing in foreign equities, prompted by the high premium on the limited number of quality domestic businesses.

Quick take

My reading of the market

Markets got a boost from lower rates and liquidity. We are directionally positive on earnings, but the markets seem to have factored in the positives and are pricey from a risk-reward perspective.

How my fund is positioned

Pre-covid, the portfolio was positioned for an economic recovery and significantly overweight in financials, which hit us very badly in the fall. The fund is now defensively positioned and will likely underperform a fast rising market.

Top sector bets and top stock picks

05 Top Bets

(Source: Mornigstar India)