Why quality stocks offer higher return


David Philpotts

David Philpotts

Head of Research, QEP Investment Team

For many years, investors thought of “Growth” investing as the natural complement to Value based investment strategies. However, disappointment with the diversification properties of Growth and the failure to identify a sustainable return premium attached to Growth stocks has more recently revived interest in the concept of Quality as both a stand-alone strategy and one that is highly diversifying with Value.

The Schroders QEP Global Equity Team has been promoting the merits of investing in Quality for almost two decades and has offered a stand-alone Global Quality strategy since 2007. The strategy invests in financially strong companies that have a demonstrated record of generating superior and stable profitability. We believe that Quality is a more systematic and predictable investment approach than typical growth investing as it explicitly avoids the disappointment that is often associated with more glamorous stocks.

More specifically, our analysis suggests that Quality companies generate a return premium in excess of the market over time with lower risk whilst we also observe that this return is accentuated when risk aversion is high or rising. Historically, many of these periods have often been associated with Value strategies underperforming, meaning that Quality also appears to offer significant strategic diversification to Value approaches.

The complementary role of Value and Quality does not appear to be spurious. We observe that higher quality companies have very different characteristics to Value stocks which are often less profitable, more cyclical and exhibit weaker balance sheets. Philosophically, it is also possible to argue that high quality companies are complementary to Value in the sense investors fail to incorporate the persistence of the positive attributes of quality companies into the future, particularly their profitability, whereas the opposite is often true for stocks with weaker fundamentals (which creates the value opportunity). The complementary nature of Value and Quality enables investors to construct a more balanced equity portfolio which is more likely to perform across a broad range of market environments.

In this paper we highlight how higher Quality companies typically offer higher returns to investors which we believe is at least in part linked to the observation that they are more likely to experience favourable corporate events. We also show that Quality companies are able to sustain elevated profitability levels relative to the wider market for protracted periods which does not appear to be fully valued, thereby creating a justification for the Quality premium. In contrast, investors actually tend to overpay for “Growth”, either as part of a lottery effect or because they get sucked into glamour trades which leads to the outperformance of the “slow and steady” companies where strong fundamentals are not fully priced.

Important Information:
Opinions, estimates and projections in this article constitute the current judgement of the author as of the date of this article. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Schroder Investment Management Australia Limited, ABN 22 000 443 274, AFS Licence 226473 ("Schroders") or any member of the Schroders Group and are subject to change without notice. In preparing this document, we have relied upon and assumed, without independent verification, the accuracy and completeness of all information available from public sources or which was otherwise reviewed by us. Schroders does not give any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of information which is contained in this article. Except insofar as liability under any statute cannot be excluded, Schroders and its directors, employees, consultants or any company in the Schroders Group do not accept any liability (whether arising in contract, in tort or negligence or otherwise) for any error or omission in this article or for any resulting loss or damage (whether direct, indirect, consequential or otherwise) suffered by the recipient of this article or any other person. This document does not contain, and should not be relied on as containing any investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Schroders may record and monitor telephone calls for security, training and compliance purposes.