In the rest of the world an absolute return fund means just one thing: a hedge fund. It is easy to understand that absolute return sounds a lot more palatable when hedge fund is often a euphemism for a Ponzi scheme. But in SA, until about two years ago hedge funds operated in a twilight zone. They weren’t allowed to be marketed, but if consenting adults chose to invest in them the authorities would not stand in their way.

So back in the late 1990s Coronation’s then head of marketing, Magda Wierzycka, decided to label the firm’s conservative, low equity fund as absolute return. Admittedly, it was not a dull, low-risk fund. Its fund manager, Louis Stassen, was and is one of SA’s best and most creative portfolio managers. Don’t take my word for it; his fans include Counterpoint’s Piet Viljoen, another highly individualistic investor...

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