Introduction to the American Fund
The American Fund was founded in 1950 with the mission of providing long-term capital growth for investors through equity investments in American companies. It is one of the oldest and largest mutual funds in the United States.
The fund was started by Samuel Jones, who wanted to give average Americans an opportunity to invest in the stock market and grow their money over time. At the time, investing was seen as an activity reserved for the wealthy. Jones believed that anyone should be able to participate in the growth of American companies.
The fund began with just $100,000 in assets but grew rapidly during the postwar economic boom. As more Americans had disposable income to invest, the fund attracted greater interest. Today, the American Fund manages over $50 billion in assets and remains dedicated to long-term capital appreciation through stocks of American companies.
Over its 70+ year history, the fund has weathered numerous market cycles and downturns. It has consistently rebounded and delivered positive returns over the long run. The fund exemplifies the philosophy of patience, discipline, and commitment to a long-term investment strategy built around American companies. While the fund has evolved with the times, its core mission remains unchanged since its founding.
Leadership and Management
The American Fund is managed by a team of seasoned investment professionals with decades of combined experience in the financial markets.
The fund is led by James Cooper who serves as the Chief Executive Officer. Cooper has over 30 years of experience in asset management and joined the fund in 2010. Prior to becoming CEO, Cooper served as the Chief Investment Officer where he spearheaded the fund’s equity investment strategy.
Reporting to Cooper is Sarah Davis, the Chief Operating Officer who oversees the fund’s day-to-day operations. Davis has been with the fund since its inception in 1995.
Other key executives include:
– Michael Chen, Chief Financial Officer
– Amanda Lee, Chief Marketing Officer
– Robert Jones, Chief Technology Officer
Board of Directors
The American Fund’s Board of Directors consists of 10 members who provide oversight and set the strategic vision for the fund.
The Chairman of the Board is William Thompson, an industry veteran who previously served as CEO of a large asset management firm. Other board members represent leaders in finance, academia, law, and technology.
40% of the board members are female, promoting diversity in the fund’s leadership.
Operationally, the fund is divided into key divisions:
– Investments – Led by the CIO, this division makes investment decisions and manages the portfolio
– Operations – Overseen by the COO, covers administrative functions
– Marketing – Drives asset growth by promoting the fund’s offerings
– Technology – Maintains computing systems and analytics capabilities
There is also a strong focus on risk management, compliance, and quality control through separate internal oversight functions.
Investment Strategy and Philosophy
The American Fund aims to provide long-term capital growth by investing primarily in stocks of U.S. companies. The fund’s investment approach focuses on seeking out solid companies with stable earnings, cash flow, and dividends.
The fund’s primary investment goals are long-term capital appreciation and current income. The fund targets a balanced risk profile, willing to take on some volatility and risk in pursuit of higher potential returns over time. However, the fund still maintains a core foundation of large, established U.S. companies across various sectors.
The fund’s philosophy relies on fundamental analysis to identify financially sound companies that are reasonably priced or undervalued. The investment team looks for durable franchises with strong management teams and competitive advantages that can drive steady growth over market cycles. The fund is willing to patiently hold positions for extended periods if the investment thesis remains intact.
The portfolio managers aim to construct a diversified portfolio that provides exposure to multiple sectors of the U.S. economy. The fund strives to manage risk through diversification and focus on quality. The fund maintains a long-term perspective, looking past temporary market swings to the underlying fundamentals of its holdings.
Fund Performance and Analysis
The American Fund has delivered strong returns over time compared to its benchmark index and peer funds in its category. The fund’s 5-year average annual return is 7.2%, outperforming its benchmark index by 1.1% per year. Over the 10-year period, the fund has returned an average of 8.4% annually, beating its benchmark by 0.9% per year.
On a risk-adjusted basis, the American Fund has also posted solid numbers. The fund’s 5-year Sharpe ratio is 1.04, indicating it has generated better returns per unit of risk compared to similar funds. The 10-year Sharpe ratio is 0.91, again outpacing its peer group in risk-adjusted performance.
The fund tends to hold up better during market downturns as well. In the large market correction of 2018, the American Fund lost 12.4% compared to a 14.2% loss for its benchmark index. While still negative, the fund helped cushion the blow to investors’ portfolios. The fund’s 5-year beta is 0.88, meaning it has been 12% less volatile than the overall market.
Overall, the American Fund has consistently demonstrated an ability to generate market-beating returns over full market cycles while taking on less risk than its benchmark index and category peers. The fund’s long-term track record provides evidence that its strategy has added value for investors.
The American Fund invests across a diversified mix of stocks and bonds to balance growth and income. The fund’s target asset allocation is 65% equities and 35% fixed income.
The equity portion is invested primarily in U.S. large cap stocks, with some exposure to mid and small caps. The fund tilts towards growth stocks and sectors like technology, consumer discretionary, and healthcare. Top equity holdings include Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Tesla, NVIDIA, and Visa.
Geographically, the equity portfolio has an overall U.S. focus, with around 75% allocated to domestic stocks. The remaining 25% provides exposure to international developed and emerging markets. Top country weights outside the U.S. are China, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
On the fixed income side, the portfolio emphasizes investment-grade corporate and government bonds. The fund maintains a short duration positioning, with an average maturity of around 5 years. This portion of the portfolio is focused entirely within the U.S. bond market.
The fund aims to maintain a balanced mix of growth and stability through this diversified allocation across stocks and bonds. The equity tilt provides potential for capital appreciation, while the fixed income portion contributes income and helps manage overall portfolio volatility.
Fees, Expenses, and Minimums
The American Fund features expense ratios that are comparable to similar large-cap blend mutual funds. The fund’s front-end sales load is 5.75% for Class A shares, while Class C shares have a 1% CDSC if sold within the first year.
The American Fund has an expense ratio of 0.79% for Class A shares and 1.54% for Class C shares as of the fund’s prospectus dated 5/1/2021. This means investors pay $7.90 or $15.40 respectively in annual expenses for every $1,000 invested. The fund’s expense ratios are moderate and in line with other large blend mutual funds which average around 0.7-1.5%.
Class A shares of the American Fund have a 5.75% front-end sales load, which means investors pay $57.50 for every $1,000 invested. This load is deducted from the initial investment amount. Class C shares do not have a front-end load but may charge a 1% Contingent Deferred Sales Charge (CDSC) if shares are sold within the first year. This allows the fund to recoup commissions paid to brokers.
The American Fund requires a minimum initial investment of $1,000 for regular taxable accounts. Retirement accounts have a $500 minimum while subsequent investments only need $50. These minimums are typical for mutual funds from large asset managers. The fund does not offer lower minimums for systematic investment plans.
The American Fund aims to be tax-efficient in its investment strategy. As a mutual fund, it is required to distribute net capital gains and dividends to shareholders annually. This can result in shareholders needing to pay taxes on these distributions even if they have not sold any shares of the fund.
The fund managers are cautious about realizing too many short-term capital gains, which are taxed at a higher rate than long-term capital gains. They employ strategies like tax-loss harvesting to offset gains. This involves selectively selling securities at a loss to counterbalance securities sold at a gain.
The fund strives to keep portfolio turnover low. By not frequently buying and selling holdings, it avoids realizing as many capital gains that would need to be distributed and taxed. The fund had a turnover rate of just 20% last year, significantly lower than similar funds.
The American Fund has provided primarily long-term capital gains distributions in recent years. This means shareholders pay the preferential tax rate on long-term capital gains, rather than the higher rate for short-term gains. The fund also distributes qualified dividends which are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains rate.
All in all, The American Fund aims to maximize after-tax returns for shareholders by keeping taxes and taxable distributions low. This tax-efficient approach can benefit investors in taxable accounts over the long run. However, taxes should not be the sole factor in investment decisions, as the fund’s strategy and performance are more important.
Risks and Criticisms
The American Fund has faced some criticisms over the years. Here are some of the potential downsides and controversies to consider:
The fund’s expense ratio is over 1%, which is considered high compared to index funds and ETFs. This reduces returns over time.
The fund has high portfolio turnover, realizing capital gains which can increase tax liability for investors. It may be better suited to tax-deferred accounts.
Despite active management, the fund’s holdings tend to closely track the S&P 500 index, raising questions if the higher fees are justified.
The fund relies heavily on a single manager’s judgement in stock selection. If he were to leave, performance may suffer.
At times, the fund has made large sector bets, such as on technology stocks, which increases risk and volatility compared to a more diversified approach.
Regulators investigated the fund in the early 2000s over alleged market timing violations, resulting in fines, though reforms were enacted.
Some criticize the fund for lack of shareholder advocacy on environmental, social, and governance issues compared to peers.
While the fund has delivered solid long-term returns, investors should weigh the higher costs and risks versus other alternatives before investing. Understanding the pros and cons can lead to better investment decisions.
Similar Fund Alternatives
The American Fund competes in the large-cap blend mutual fund category against several other well-known funds:
Vanguard 500 Index Fund
The Vanguard 500 Index Fund tracks the S&P 500 Index and has an expense ratio of just 0.04%. This passive index fund is one of the largest in the world with over $700 billion in assets. The extremely low fees make it attractive to many investors. However, as an index fund it provides little ability to outperform the overall market.
Fidelity 500 Index Fund
Fidelity offers its own S&P 500 index fund with an expense ratio of 0.015%. The Fidelity fund has slightly lower fees than Vanguard but the difference is negligible. Like Vanguard’s offering, this is a basic index fund with no active management.
T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth Fund
In contrast to the index funds above, the T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth Fund is actively managed and focuses on large-cap growth stocks. Its expense ratio is 0.70%. The fund has outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 10 years but the higher fees could eat into long-term returns.
The American Fund offers active management like T. Rowe Price but with a more diversified portfolio beyond just large-cap growth. Its performance and fees are comparable to the T. Rowe fund. Investors need to evaluate whether the American Fund’s specific strategy justifies the higher costs compared to passive index funds.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The American Fund is one of the largest and oldest mutual funds in the United States, with over 80 years of history. It follows a diversified strategy investing broadly across the US stock market. The fund aims to provide long-term capital growth while avoiding excessive risk.
Overall, The American Fund offers a solid core US equity holding for a long-term buy-and-hold portfolio. The large asset base, low costs, and experienced management team are advantages. Performance has been mediocre over the past decade compared to peers, but still reasonable on an absolute basis.
– Large, diversified US equity mutual fund with 80+ year history.
– Invests in 500+ stocks across major industries and sectors.
– Current assets over $100 billion.
– Low expense ratio of 0.xx%.
– Managed by an experienced team with a long tenure.
Who This Fund is Best For
The American Fund can serve as a foundational holding and source of US equity market exposure for individual investors. It is appropriate for those with long time horizons seeking broad diversification at a low cost. Investors should have a high tolerance for volatility that comes with full participation in the stock market. This fund is likely too plain vanilla for investors seeking targeted sector bets or alternative strategy funds. It is best suited as part of an overall diversified portfolio allocation.
Given its straightforward strategy focused on the total US stock market, The American Fund offers an easy way to gain low-cost exposure without taking on significant risk relative to the broad market. While the fund lacks pizzaz, it can play an important role as a core portfolio holding for buy-and-hold investors looking to capture the long-run returns of equities. The scale and experience behind this fund make it worth considering for a portion of your domestic stock allocation.