Bhim D. Asdhir of Excel Funds is part of this year's Wealth Professional Canada's Host List.


Excel Funds

Since its founding in 1998, Excel Funds has been regarded as the preeminent asset manager for emerging market products in Canada. In the beginning, Excel was focused primarily on the home country of its founder, Bhim Asdhir: India. The subcontinent is the fastest-growing major economy in the world – economic expansion of 7.73% is predicted for this year – so naturally the India funds remain a key part of Excel’s business. There are many more strings to the firm’s bow today, however; fixed-income strategies in particular are becoming an increasingly important part of the lineup.

The Excel High Income Fund is one such product. It won a Fundgrade A+ Award earlier this year, reflecting its impressive performance in the fixed-income space. “It consistently generates the best riskadjusted returns in Canada,” Asdhir says. “It invests primarily in investment-grade debt securities issued by emerging-market governments and corporations. It is the only fund in its category that invests in both local and hard currency emerging-market debt.”

It is for its three India-focused funds that Excel is best known among the investment community in Canada. The second most populous country on earth has immense investment potential, as the performance of the Excel India Fund over the past year attests. For the one-year period ending March 31, 2017, the fund had a return of 31.53% – a number most mutual funds could only dream of. The fund’s performance has seen some pretty wild swings over the years – the return was -33.5% in 2011 – but with economic reform taking hold across India, that volatility shouldn’t be as much of a factor going forward.

“Buoyed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-growth policies, we believe India’s stock market is headed for one of its best years,” Asdhir says. “Strong demand for equities, reasonable valuations and steadily improving growth are expected to push equities higher, providing investors with the opportunity to potentially make substantial gains.”

In the investment world, it’s often the case that retail follows institutional money. The CPPIB, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec and Brookfield Asset Management have all made inroads into India in recent years, and none of those institutions are known for making rash decisions. In Asdhir’s opinion, political stability means the time is right for Canadians to diversify their assets into the country.

“Optimism towards India has increased in the wake of the recent landslide state elections victory by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, providing a ringing endorsement of his leadership and paving the way for a second term at the helm,” he says. “This bodes well for uninterrupted growth in the world’s fastest-growing economy.”

Last month, Excel Funds also entered the ETF space for the first time with two offerings: the Excel Global Balanced Asset Allocation ETF and the Excel Global Growth Asset Allocation ETF. The ETF marketplace in Canada has become pretty crowded, but Asdhir believes these products offer something new for investors. “I believe that in emerging markets, stock-picking is key to generating alpha, whereas in global markets, effective asset allocation is critical for maximizing returns – which is what our ETFs aim to do,” he says. “We will differentiate ourselves by creating unique products that are not index-based – our two ETFs incorporate a quant model in combination with a human element in the asset allocation process.”