Annual Client Letter – January 2015
Dear Green Alpha investors, clients, and friends:
We hope your new year is off to a good start! In addition to our thoughts for 2015, we want to reflect on 2014 and the state of the economy, our Green Alpha Products, and company news.
Below, please find the following:
- Next EconomyTM Commentary from Garvin and Jeremy
- Green Alpha results and developments in 2014
- Green Alpha Next Economy Index (GANEX)
- Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio (SCGA)
- Green Alpha Growth & Income Portfolio (GAGIP)
- Green Alpha Global Enhanced Equity Income Portfolio (GAGEEIP)
- Green Alpha Select Solar Portfolio (GASSP)
- Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX)
- Key Green Alpha Developments
- Assets Under Management More Than Doubled in 2014
- New Hires Include Industry Veteran Betsy Moszeter
- News and Research Page on Green Alpha’s website
2014 Commentary and Next Economics
While we recognize that in 2013 we enjoyed significant outperformance and 2014 brought some partial consolidation of those gains as we faced significant headwinds against our portfolios, as a rule we place little weight on short-term results, good or bad. And, we believe, neither should you. Our portfolio decisions are driven by what we believe will mitigate risk and improve our opportunity for long-term returns. We encourage you to place more weight on our longer-term historical results, and a great deal of weight on our long-term prospects. In that light, we’d like to say thank you to our clients: Your patient capital allows us to take advantage of opportunities when they occur when others are forced to sell at exactly the wrong time. We truly value and are grateful for you, and we believe that patient capital will be rewarded over the long term.
Speaking of the long-term view, we do bear in mind that the economy of the 19th and 20th centuries got us a long way, propelling the global economy to where it is today. But from here, looking forward, it’s clear that this legacy economy is fraught with systemic risks, not the least of which are the worst effects of climate change and global resource scarcity. Particularly now that there are 7.3 billion of us, with many enjoying rising affluence and standards of living, our economic activities, for the first time in human history, if not the history of Earth, can and do have real impact. So, unless we want our own self-caused biggest threats to come home to roost, it’s time, or even past time, to change the way the economy works. So, we at Green Alpha think it is time to change where capital is deployed. As long as we remain invested in the fossil-fuels based legacy economy, we’re going to get increasingly strong storms, acidic, rising seas, diminishing biodiversity, and all manner of risks from an increasingly warm planet. These are the material, long-term risks we invest to avoid and mitigate.
Meanwhile, in the shorter term, 2014 proved substantially more volatile -– especially in the downward direction -– for most Green Alpha portfolios than did 2013, and concerns about performance are valid, although we believe that most of our clients understand the long-term nature of our thesis. In 2015 and beyond, we expect our Next Economy companies will continue to gain market share from their legacy economy predecessors, and therefore continue to have outstanding chances for competitive long-term performance. But emerging methods, solutions, and technologies take time to be recognized, and they can have unfortunate market performance even as their underlying businesses are booming.
In 2014 (off and on), geopolitical events such as perceived slowing in China's economic growth, further slowing and even deflation in Europe, social and political unrest around the globe, and pandemic fears, among others, caused a general shift away from growth stocks to more traditional value stocks. Anything thought of as high momentum or high growth was sold in favor of more traditional blue chips; here we cite that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was relatively competitive all year. Of course, the possibility exists that this trend may continue, but the possibility equally exists that the shift may have run its course and that now investors will begin to hunt for bargains among the growth stocks that have pulled back. Either way, the point is that stocks with good fundamentals (and working in rapidly growing areas -- like the solutions to society's most pressing systemic threats) are not declining due to company-integral issues, but rather are being caught in generalized negative market sentiment. This presents market inefficiencies that diligent work may uncover.
Some, such as Naomi Klein, have suggested that to reach a point of truly indefinite sustainability, human economies can no longer be characterized by growth, but rather by a circular state of dynamic equilibrium wherein waste-to-value economics and renewable energies are distributed equitably and repeatedly. This is as may be, and our own philosophy of next economics does share some principles with this vision. But in reality, the global human economy is so far from realizing this ideal, that not just some but all of our best ideas and solutions from every sector that advance sustainability have every opportunity to and indeed must grow rapidly. As we, step by step, come closer to realizing a world wherein human economies and our underlying ecosystems may persist side by side for a very long time, the end of growth may be here for some legacy industries like fossil fuels, but it is still a long way off for the providers of solutions to our key systemic risks.
Yet it's unavoidable that Green Alpha’s portfolios get caught up in short-term market volatility like a general downdraft for perceived growth equities like we experienced in 2014. But we believe that by carefully selecting growth and value stocks with great fundamentals, we are building portfolios that stand every chance of being early to recover, and on that basis we consider the inevitable times of market consolidation to be attractive entry points within our methodological approach.
We managed five separate account strategies for the entirety of 2014: Green Alpha Next Economy Index (or GANEX), the Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio (SCGA), the Green Alpha Select Solar Portfolio (GASSP), the Green Alpha Growth and Income Portfolio (GAGIP) and the Green Alpha Enhanced Equity Income Portfolio (GAGEEIP). We are also sub-advisors to the Shelton Green Alpha Fund (ticker: NEXTX). The full year 2014 and 2013 returns for each were (source, Bloomberg Finance L.P., returns net of fees):
Portfolio 2014 Return 2013 Return
GANEX: -4.79% 63.51%
SCGA: -2.76% 99.79%
GAGIP: -1.98% 32.87%
GAGEEIP: 3.91% NA
GASSP: -20.97% NA
NEXTX: -1.48% 48.40%
One primary source of portfolio volatility in 2014 was our exposure to renewable energies, which, inappropriately in our view, have been selling off along with oil since mid-2014. We think it’s important to remember that solar is a technology (as, to a slightly lesser extent, is wind), and its past and future cost dynamics will look like technology -– becoming ever cheaper. Fossil fuels are commodities – finite and expensive to locate, extract, refine and ship -– and fossil fuels have had and will have cost dynamics to match: very volatile. In the long run, 10-20 years from now, as our economy and infrastructure can make more and better use of renewables, the two will compete directly in a way that they do not now, but by then renewables, led by solar, will be so inexpensive that the cost comparison will no longer spark argument. So different are the commodity and technology means of deriving energy that we at Green Alpha have proposed that they be classified as different industries within the energy sector altogether. The decline in solar prices in tandem with declines in the oil price is fundamentally not warranted and presents another exploitable inefficiency.
While we do take advantage of this volatility, we don't manage our portfolios to short-term factors. We focus not on what is important this month or this quarter, but on things that are fundamentally true, always -- things such as mitigating resource scarcity and adapting to the effects of climate change.
Due to many of the factors discussed above, we believe we are likely to see a transition in the market back to what many refer to as a stock picker’s market. To put a bit more context around this, Furey Research, a leading small cap research firm, recently reported that during the third quarter of 2014, small cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, underperformed the S&P 500 by 850 basis points (8.50%), ranking it among the worst relative performance quarters since the first quarter of 1979. As a result of the recent large cap run, small cap valuations have compressed and the gap between the rate of earnings growth for the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 has widened, significantly in favor of small caps and the smaller mid-caps. While we expect continued near-term volatility to continue, we believe that stock selection will be a key driver of relative performance going forward, particularly as small and mid-cap growth stocks remain cheaper than their larger-capitalization counterparts. As a result, we believe that when market sentiment turns back toward favoring growth and tech, our portfolios can recover early and rapidly in relative terms because we work hard to invest in promising growth at good valuations -- companies with strong fundamentals.
From our perspective, the S&P 500 could be considered riskier than our mutual fund, the Shelton Green Alpha Fund (ticker: NEXTX), as it encompasses far slower-growing firms at richer valuations. Within NEXTX, the weighted average price-to-book ratio is 2.22, below that of the average S&P 500 stock, which is 2.79. NEXTX's EPS growth rate is 76.92% for the forward year, some eight times faster growth rate than that offered by the S&P 500 average EPS growth at 8.76%. (Figures as of 12/31/2014, data from Bloomberg Finance L.P.) We believe NEXTX represents a good intersection of growth at a reasonable value, and the recent pullback has only made that more true.
The combination of good firms, in rapidly growing sectors, with large scalability and margin profitability, that simultaneously are addressing one or more of the great risks confronting the global economy, is a powerful nexus of catalysts for long-term investors.
2015 and Beyond
So, where do we see opportunity? Well, at its heart, our approach to investment management is deceptively simple: Don't invest in the causes of our primary systemic risks, notably fossil fuels, and do invest in the solutions to those risks. For every function provided by the legacy economy, we believe there already is or soon will be a sustainable, Next Economy equivalent that is often far better than its legacy economy predecessor. So we strive to build a portfolio of Next Economy analogs for legacy economy functions. In addition to hopefully serving and advancing the cause of sustainability, this also turns out to be an effective equity growth strategy because it means investing in disruptive innovation and also in rapidly advancing economic efficiencies, meaning getting more and more dollars out of less and less economic inputs. This in turn allows us to have less and less impact on our underlying ecosystems, all while generating wealth. Thus our approach to economics and investing can become a sustainable, virtuous cycle. We believe we live in a time of nonlinear, even geometrically rapid change, and the innovations emerging now will allow us to have great standards of living, while also giving our underlying ecosystems a chance to begin recovering.
The portfolios where we put this thesis into practice follow.
The Green Alpha Next Economy Index (GANEX), launched December 30, 2008, is our most comprehensive portfolio. GANEX includes companies that meet our Next Economy criteria –- sustainable, innovative, and growth-oriented companies from all sectors seeking to mitigate or innovate around climate change and resource scarcity. In 2014, GANEX was invested in 82 companies in 24 sectors. The top performers in 2014 were:
- Sierra Wireless, Inc. +96.07%
- SunEdison, Inc. +51.72%
- Tesla Motors, Inc. +47.90%
- Applied Materials, Inc. +43.63%
- American Water Works, Co., Inc. +35.63%
Similar to 2013, GANEX’s industry diversification continued to include water desalination, waste-to-value building materials, machinery, electric vehicles, mobile communications and machine-to-machine Internet, energy efficiency and lighting, and wind power.
The Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio, launched December 27, 2010 continues to reflect Green Alpha Advisors’ Next Economy universe and the Sierra Club’s proprietary environmental and social investment guidelines. With 34 stocks in the portfolio, it is a more concentrated product, yet has investments in 16 industry sectors. Best 2014 performers were:
- Sierra Wireless, Inc. +96.07%
- Tesla Motors, Inc. +47.90%
- SunEdison, Inc. 46.36%
- Kandi Technologies Group, Inc. +18.83%
- SunOpta, Inc. 18.38%
The Green Alpha Growth and Income Portfolio, launched October 8, 2012, is designed for growth and income-oriented investors seeking lower volatility and also higher income than other Next Economy equity strategies, and holds 31 securities in 15 sectors. 2014 top performers included:
- Applied Materials, Inc. +43.60%
- American Water Works +31.79%
- Brooks Automation, Inc. +25.66%
- Vail Resorts, Inc. +23.68%
- Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure +15.20%
Co-managed with Tom Konrad, Ph.D, CFA, the Green Alpha Global Enhanced Equity Income Portfolio is an actively managed Next Economy portfolio designed to produce a high level of current income. Comprised of global equities invested in Next Economy infrastructure and businesses with current yields in excess of the 10 year US Treasury bond. Income is further enhanced and risk reduced with the sale of covered call and cash covered put options. As with all Green Alpha strategies, entirely focused on sustainable economics and fossil-fuel free. GAGEEIP’s inception was in December 2013.
The Green Alpha Select Solar Portfolio is our first sector specific strategy. Launched in December 2013, GASSP is an actively managed aggressive growth equity strategy comprised of Green Alpha’s most promising companies along the solar industry value chain. GASSP typically holds between 15 and 25 stocks.
As a sub-advisor to Shelton Capital Management, the Shelton Green Alpha fun (NEXTX) embodies our sustainable economics’ philosophy with a somewhat more conservative risk/return profile than GANEX. With its introduction in 2013, NEXTX has allowed us to bring our thesis to the broad market via a low minimum investment ($1,000) as well as the opportunity for us to participate in the retirement plan marketplace. We continue to be proud and excited about the opportunities that the launch of NEXTX has brought to Green Alpha.
To obtain a prospectus, visit www.sheltoncap.com or call (800) 955-9988. A prospectus should be read carefully before investing. Shelton Funds are distributed by RFS Partners, a member of FINRA and affiliate of Shelton Capital Management. For performance and category ranking information, visit the NEXTX Morningstar page.
Green Alpha Developments in 2014
Assets Under Management Doubled in 2014:
We had a busy and productive 2014. Assets under management more than doubled for the firm, and we spoke at a number of industry events and conferences across the country sharing our Next Economy philosophy.
Green Alpha Hires Industry Leader, Betsy Moszeter, as Chief Operating Officer and continues to build team capabilities in the areas of investment research and business development:
We are very pleased to announce that Betsy Moszeter, industry leader, has joined Green Alpha Advisors as COO. Betsy comes with 16 years of investment experience, in both traditional asset management and sustainable, responsible, impact (SRI) investing. She was most recently the Senior Vice President and a Managing Member of First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC. Prior to First Affirmative, Betsy was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Compliance Officer at TAMRO Capital Partners LLC in Alexandria, VA. Betsy’s responsibilities at Green Alpha include strengthening the firm’s infrastructure to expand capacity and increase efficiencies and internal controls. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Alpha also added Callie Weiant (email@example.com) as Director of Business Development, where she works with institutional accounts, registered investment advisers, family offices and endowments. Jake Raden (firstname.lastname@example.org) joined as Vice President of Research and Data Systems where his healthcare and big data expertise deepens the company’s research capabilities. Betsy, Callie, and Jake all add incredible talents and energy to our efforts and we are truly grateful they decided to join us. We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Meredith Parfet, our Director of Marketing and Communications for her incredible contributions over this past year. It’s very rewarding and humbling for us to have so many talented individuals here at the firm.
After much hard work and dedication to Green Alpha, our friend and partner Robert Muir, decided that it truly was time to retire and has stepped down from his day-to-day duties at Green Alpha in order to spend more time with his family. Rob remains both a client and an owner in the firm and we are truly grateful for his service and continued support.
Growth of NEXTX Mutual Fund
Our partnership with Shelton Capital Management with respect to NEXTX has allowed the firm to democratize green investing to all investors. NEXTX is our only mutual fund offering and we are so pleased to be able to bring our sustainable economics thesis to the broad marketplace. In terms of risk/return profile, NEXTX is somewhat more conservative than our GANEX, SCGA and GASSP strategies. We have received excellent partnership support from Shelton Capital on NEXTX. NEXTX is now in quite a few 401(k) plans and is available on many major platforms including Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Pershing, TD Ameritrade, Merrill Edge and Foliofn Investments.
For questions specifically regarding NEXTX, please contact Suzanne Taylor, Vice President of Sales, Shelton Capital Management at 800-955-9988 or email@example.com.
Upcoming Events and News:
As we continue to grow, we are always looking for your input and feedback on our work. Please come say hello and check our website or twitter feeds for locations where we’ll be speaking.
Please check our website, www.greenalphaadvisors.com, for news, blog posts, white papers, events and speaking engagements throughout the year.
Closing -– A Thank You to Clients, Investors, Partners and Friends
A big thank you to all: clients, partners, colleagues and everyone working to advance a truly sustainable economy. We couldn't have founded Green Alpha without you, and we wouldn't be here today without your support.
Garvin and Jeremy
Garvin Jabusch and Jeremy Deems are the co-founders of Green Alpha®Advisors, LLC. They co-manage the Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX), the Green Alpha Next Economy Index, and the Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio. Garvin also authors the Sierra Club's green economics blog, "Green Alpha's Next Economy."
Important Disclosures: This information is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, investment or other advice. This information does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. Performance data quoted represent past performance, does not guarantee future results, and current performance may be lower or higher than the data quoted. Investment returns and principal will fluctuate with market and economic conditions and investors may have a gain or loss when you sell shares. Please refer to www.greenalphaadvisors.com for more information. “Green Alpha” and “Next Economy” are registered trademarks of Green Alpha Advisors, LLC. SIERRA CLUB, the Sierra Club logos and “Explore, enjoy and protect the plant.” are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club.
To obtain a prospectus for the Shelton Green Alpha Fund, visit www.sheltoncap.com or call (800) 955-9988. A prospectus should be read carefully before investing. Shelton Funds are distributed by RFS Partners, a member of FINRA and affiliate of Shelton Capital Management.