Alan Wicks of Manulife Financial is part of this year's Wealth Professional Canada's Host List.

Manulife Financial

The Manulife Dividend Income Fund marks its fifth anniversary this year, and during that time, assets have grown to $2.1 billion. Rated as a five-star fund by Morningstar, its five-year rate of return stands at an impressive 15.94%. Overseeing that performance is lead portfolio manager Alan Wicks. Alongside Duncan Anderson, Jonathan Popper and Conrad Dabiet, Wicks heads the Manulife Value Equity team, a collaboration established in 1996 that now manages more than $17 billion in assets.

“The Value Equity team seeks to de-risk businesses and invest in companies with the best risk/reward,” Wicks explains. “We achieve this by comparing the buy and sell targets with the current market price of every security in the team’s investment universe – this comparison determines the upside opportunity or downside risk that exists for every company, given its current market price.”

In constructing the portfolio for the Manulife Dividend Income Fund, Wicks and his team use a strategy called ‘conglomerate portfolio,’ which ensures that anyone buying into the fund can count on numerous checks and balances embedded in the way it is run. “This approach involves thinking about the portfolio as if it were a conglomerate, with divisions of the conglomerate comprised of individual public businesses,” Wicks says. “The Value Equity team constructs the conglomerate with diversified and uncorrelated divisional profitability, and focuses on bottom-up stock selection and diversifying by business risk.”

This method is used to limit exposure to the more cyclical sectors such as materials, energy and financials, which have a heavy weighting in the Canadian markets. For that reason, the portfolios managed by Wicks and his team bear little resemblance to the underlying benchmarks.

“Active management is nothing new to us – we have never looked like the index,” he says. “The challenges are no different today than in the past 20 years. The goal is to provide superior risk-adjusted returns for clients and partners, and the team has done that by looking different than the index.”