India's Best Fund Managers

Lone Star

Sohini Andani is happier being an underperformer than an outperformer during unsubstantiated rallies, and with good reason

Soumik Kar

Meet the star of our fund house,” says R Srinivasan, head of equity at SBI Mutual Fund, introducing Sohini Andani, fellow fund manager in charge of the Bluechip and Magnum Midcap schemes. Both Srinivasan and Andani have made it into the list of top 10 fund managers in the Outlook Business-Value Research five-year ranking. If you thought Srinivasan was being generous with his praise, well, the 44-year-old has earned every bit of it. She was offered the role of a fund manager in 2010, two-and-a-half years after she joined the fund house as its head of research. A CA by qualification, Andani started out as an equity analyst, working for some of the most reputed domestic broking houses and later moving to the buy side as a senior analyst with ING Investment Management.

When she joined SBI MF in October 2007, the fund house was in transition following a churn that saw some fund managers making their exit. As the head of research, Andani was instrumental in building the team of analysts that today serves as the backbone of the fund house. “I know the strengths and weaknesses of each of my team members. Most of the analysts whom we hired were fresh out of college and very new to the market. But in these eight years, they have really shaped up well and their understanding of sectors and companies is impeccable,” says Andani, who continues to track IT and banking sectors closely. Even as Andani kept building on her team’s strengths, it was the impressive performance of her model portfolio — which she periodically kept showing to the fund managers — that landed her the job of managing the two schemes. 

What the management told her when she took on the assignment is what continues to drive her investing philosophy. Given that the fund’s historical performance for the previous five years was bad and that it had no room to surprise investors negatively, the mandate given to Andani was that come what may, the scheme could afford no further mistakes. “This meant that I had to build a portfolio which could generate maximum return with minimum risk. Even today, whenever I invest in a stock, the thought ‘what if I go wrong’ keeps playing on my mind. In that sense, the stocks you don’t own are also a source of alpha, especially in a falling market,&rdq

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