Canada joined markets around the world facing extraordinary volatility in 2020, strongly selling off February highs before rebounding, as the scale and management of the pandemic grew clearer. The S&P/TSX Composite posted a respectable 5.6% gain for the year, and the smaller-cap names of the S&P/TSX Completion finished slightly ahead with a 6.0% return. However, both of these returns were well below the 16.3% gained by the S&P 500® (CAD) and other global benchmarks.
Although this volatile period offered ample opportunity for stock-pickers to shine, 88% of Canadian Equity funds underperformed their benchmark in 2020, in line with the 84% that did so over the past 10 years. This shortfall was widespread, as a majority of funds underperformed in five of the seven categories in 2020. Over the past decade, a majority of managers in every fund category lagged their benchmarks (see Report 1).
Canadian Equity funds were particularly notable for their level of underperformance. On an equal-weighted basis, Canadian Equity funds returned a bleak 4.8% below the S&P/TSX Composite over the past year, the worst relative performance of any fund category (see Report 3).
Canadian Small-/Mid-Cap Equity funds had a banner year, as just 22% failed to beat the S&P/TSX Completion. These funds were particularly deserving of praise for gaining an average of 14.3% on an equal-weighted basis—8.3% clear of the benchmark. Results were somewhat less triumphant over longer horizons though, as 71% and 91% of funds fell short over the three- and five-year periods, respectively (see Reports 1 and 3).
Canadian Dividend & Income Equity funds took second place among fund categories, with just 44% lagging the S&P/TSX Canadian Dividend Aristocrats® Index in 2020. This was also the only category with negative returns for 2020; the index lost 2.3% on the year, and on an equal-weighted basis, the funds lost 1.2%. This picture reverted to form over the 10-year horizon, as the index led (7.1% annualized return) and the funds followed (5.3% annualized return, with 91% of funds performing worse than the index; see Reports 1 and 3).
Among Canadian Focused Equity funds, 71% lagged the blended benchmark, which comprises the S&P/TSX Composite (50%), the S&P 500 (CAD) (25%), and the S&P EPAC LargeMidCap (CAD) (25%). Canadian Focused Equity funds were also notable for having the worst chances of beating the index over the 10-year period, with just 4 of 128 funds (3.1%) surpassing the blended target. Asset allocators punished these funds heavily, as only 37% of funds survived the decade, the worst survivorship of any category (see Reports 1 and 2).
Funds looking outside of Canada provided some respite from poorer domestic returns, although active management still broadly failed to add value. U.S. Equity funds posted the highest returns over the past year, with a 13.6% gain on an equal-weighted basis and 17.4% on an asset-weighted basis. However, 69% of funds failed to clear the returns of the S&P 500 (CAD) over the past year. Similarly, U.S. equities offered the best returns over the past decade, with the S&P 500 (CAD) gaining 16.8% per year, but active funds were unable to keep up: 95% fell short, by an average of 4.1% per year on an equal-weighted basis (see Reports 1, 3, and 4).
International Equity funds did slightly better on a relative basis over the past year, with 60% underperforming. Nonetheless, the average equal-weighted performance was 7.0%, well shy of the 9.0% gain of the S&P EPAC LargeMidCap (CAD). Global Equity funds put up a feeble defense of active management, with 78% underperforming the 14.9% gain of the S&P Developed LargeMidCap, with an average equal-weighted performance of just 10.8% (see Reports 1 and 3).
Larger funds in Canada tended to outperform their smaller counterparts, as 22 of the 28 results showed higher asset-weighted returns across the seven fund categories and four time horizons studied (see Reports 3 and 4).
The SPIVA Scorecards' accounting for survivorship bias continues to provide a valuable caution for asset allocators, as 54% of all funds in the eligible universe 10 years ago have since been liquidated or merged (see Report 2).