Every week we screen a different Value Line mutual fund objective group for top performing funds. Sometimes the results offer up interesting small or new funds that investors may not have heard of before. Our recent screen of the Growth/Income objective group resulted in such a unique find: Dividend Growth Advisors Rising Dividend Growth Fund (ICRDX). Although the name is a mouthful, and perhaps a little redundant, the fund’s disciplined investment approach should interest income-oriented investors—so should its solid results.
The management team, which consists of Thomas Cameron, Troy Shaver, Jere Estes, and Frederick Gaskin, have a short checklist of items that companies must have in order be considered for purchase. The first two items on this list, consistently paying dividends at an increasing rate that averages at least 10% per year and 10 consecutive years of dividend increases, quickly cuts their universe of investment options down to a manageable size. (The firm nicknamed this the 10/10 Test.) Moreover, these two factors are virtually impossible to fake or adjust since a dividend can’t be retroactively altered.
After stocks pass these two screens, the team delves more into the businesses, looking for managements that are committed to distributing profits to shareholders and that have a proven ability to manage their businesses with consistent earnings growth in various economic cycles. Also considered are factors such as the production of essential products and services needed for daily living (water, food, and energy, for example) and industry position, with a focus on strong brands with growing global exposure.
On the sell side of the investment equation, management will remove a stock from the portfolio when it thinks its fundamentals are likely to deteriorate, its valuation becomes excessive, or if it believes there is a better investment opportunity. Note, however, that a stock will immediately be sold if it no longer passes the so-called 10/10 Test.
For investors who believe that a company’s dividend policy and history are important indicators of future business and stock performance, this investment approach should be very appealing. Investors should note, however, that the fund is considered non-diversified, holding as few as 25 stocks under normal market conditions. That said, turnover is not excessive, staying at or below 50% in each of the past five years.
The fund’s performance through July of 2010, meanwhile, places it in the top 10% of its objective group over the trailing one-, three-, and five-year periods. Moreover, it outperformed the average fund in the group by over four percentage points over the trailing five-year period, an impressive number to say the least. The fund’s Risk rank is better than the groups, its standard deviation (a measure of price volatility) is over 20% lower than the group mean, and it’s beta is a relatively low 0.72 (beta is a measure of relative volatility, generally in relation to a broad index). Thus, this fund is appropriate for those seeking both solid performance and low risk. The only major drawback is that it is a load fund, which means that do-it-yourself investors should probably take a pass. Also, despite the word dividend appearing twice in the fund’s name, the fund’s dividend yield is less than inspiring.