The 21st annual Barron’s/Lipper Fund Family ranking came out this week, and two of the top three firms are based in Minneapolis.
Sit Investment Associates and Thrivent Financial finished 2015 ranked first and third, respectively, in the annual performance ranking of top mutual fund families. Publicly traded Eaton Vance, based in Boston, was second.
“It’s basic blocking and tackling,” said Roger Sit, CEO and chief investment officer of Sit Investment Associates.
Sit Investment Associates was founded in 1981 by Roger’s father, Eugene Sit, who died in 2008. The firm started with working capital of $1 million and had eight employees. The firm has grown to over $14 billion in managed assets among its 13 funds and 74 employees.
Thrivent Mutual Funds, which operates as a for-profit entity of Thrivent Financial, has been offering funds since 1970 and has $14 billion in assets in its 21 mutual funds. The assets are managed by more than 100 investment professionals in offices in Appleton, Wis., and downtown Minneapolis.
“Its really just bottom-up research and a lot of hard work,” said David Royal, president of Thrivent Mutual Funds on the Barron’s/Lipper Fund Family ranking. “The majority of the credit really goes to our team of research analysts that we’ve built out over the last decade.”
Neither Sit nor Thrivent is the largest by total assets or fund offerings on the Barron’s list, but they outperformed 67 fund families eligible for the ranking.
Barron hired Lipper each year for the annual ranking, which aims to measure investment manager skill over a range of five fund categories and is weighted by asset size, relative to the fund family’s other assets in its general classification. Returns are calculated before some fees and sales charges. To be eligible for the ranking, fund families had to have offerings in general equity, world equity, mixed asset, taxable bond and tax-exempt bond categories.
Sit Investment, ranked 39th in 2014, fared well across the board. The Sit Balanced fund ranked first in the mixed equity category, and Sit funds ranked between ninth and 13th in the other four categories.
Thrivent — the nation’s largest fraternal benefit organization, a type of nonprofit — finished 23rd in 2014. The firm offers a variety of financial services products to its members who fall under its “common bond,” which was recently expanded to all Christians. While Thrivent Financial was formed more than a century ago and had over $109 billion in assets under management at year-end, the firm’s Thrivent Mutual Fund business is similar in size and scope with Sit.