The Fund invests primarily (no less than 65% of its total assets under normal market conditions) in equity securities, including common and preferred stocks, of foreign companies that Ballie Gifford Overseas Limited (the "Subadviser") believes will experience growth and benefit from sustainable competitive advantages in their markets. The Fund may invest in companies of any size located in, or economically tied to, any country or region outside of the United States, including developed foreign and emerging markets. The Fund normally invests in at least three different countries outside of the United States.
The Subadviser primarily uses proprietary, fundamental research to seek to identify companies for investment that can exhibit sustained, above-average growth with attractive financial characteristics, such as superior profit margins on invested capital. The Subadviser normally evaluates these characteristics over a 3 to 5 year time horizon. The Subadviser may, from time to time and at its discretion, seek to hedge the value of a portion of the Fund's foreign currency exposure to attempt to preserve the value of the Fund's investments in U.S. dollar terms. However, the Subadviser does not normally expect to hedge the Fund's foreign currency exposure.
When evaluating individual companies for investment, the Subadviser normally focuses on the following:
The Subadviser may sell or reduce the Fund's investment in a portfolio security if the Subadviser detects a material diminution to either the company's growth opportunity or in the level of confidence the Subadviser has in company management's ability to exploit that opportunity. This may occur as a result of a new technological or competitive threat to the company or industry or to an unexpected change in strategic direction from company management. The Subadviser also regularly considers the company's valuation, and whether the current stock price has risen to a level that better reflects the Subadviser's view of the company's future growth potential. However, the Subadviser does not normally trade based upon short-term price movements, as it considers such moves to be poor predictors of long-term results.
Market and Issuer risk: Securities markets are volatile and can decline significantly in response to adverse market, economic, political or regulatory developments, which may lower the value of securities held by the Fund, sometimes rapidly or unpredictably. Additionally, an adverse event, such as an unfavorable earnings report, may depress the value of a particular issuer's stock.
Growth style risk: Over time, a growth oriented investing style may go in and out of favor, which may cause the Fund to underperform other equity funds that use different investing styles.
Selection risk: The Subadviser's judgment about the attractiveness, value and potential appreciation of a particular security may be incorrect.
Foreign securities risk: Because the Fund invests primarily in securities of foreign issuers, an investment in the Fund is subject to special risks in addition to those of U.S. securities. These risks include heightened political and economic risks, greater volatility, currency fluctuations, higher transaction costs, delayed settlement, possible foreign controls on investment, and less stringent investor protection and disclosure standards of foreign markets. Foreign securities are sometimes less liquid and harder to value than securities of U.S. issuers. The securities markets of many foreign countries are relatively small, with a limited number of companies representing a small number of industries. If foreign securities are denominated and traded in a foreign currency, the value of the Fund's foreign holdings can be affected by currency exchange rates and exchange control regulations. The Fund's investments in foreign securities may also be subject to foreign withholding taxes.
The 2008 global economic crisis brought several European governments close to bankruptcy and many other economies into recession and weakened the banking and financial sectors of many countries. Global economies and financial markets are becoming increasingly interconnected, and conditions and events in one country, region or financial market may adversely impact issuers in a different country, region or financial market.
Emerging market risk: Foreign securities risks are more significant in emerging market countries, such as those in Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Basin. These countries may have relatively unstable governments and less-established market economies than developed countries. Emerging markets may face greater social, economic, regulatory and political uncertainties. These risks make emerging market securities more volatile and less liquid than securities issued in more developed countries.