Japan country specialist Miyako Urabe is a quickly rising star at J. P. Morgan. Sitting as Vice President after 15 years in the industry, she currently manages the firm’s JPM Japan, JPMorgan Japan (Yen), JPM Japan Equity and JPMorgan Japanese IT plc funds.
As well as maintaining a consistently high alpha score in both falling and rising markets, Urabe returned a stellar 43% across Q2 and Q3 of 2020, in comparison to the peer composite group whose average total return was just 22%. This achievement is a testament to the impressive performance of JPMorgan Japanese (JFJ) throughout 2020. The fund capitalised on the areas of online and e-commerce which were boosted by lifestyle shifts brought about by the pandemic. Over the long term too, JFJ continues to outperform the AIC Japan peer group benchmark.
Being based in Tokyo enables Urabe and her team to both understand and critically analyse the country’s secular trends first hand, always staying one step ahead of them. With insider knowledge of the bureaucratic problems rife among Japanese firms, she can deftly leverage anticipated growth while steering clear of a downturn. JFJ also recently invested in renewable energy, which contributed to them being placed in the top 10% of their peers by ‘Morningstar’.
As a bottom-up unconstrained stock-picking portfolio, Urabe’s is able to avoid areas of the market in structural decline and to invest in those which will benefit from the long-term trends they are experiencing in the country. Urabe sticks to her guns, which can be seen from the portfolio’s low turnover. Once she has identified a company that allows her to access a trend, it is held for the long term so that the benefit is reaped.
Urabe’s local knowledge has also enhanced the portfolio throughout the COVID-19 crisis, during which restrictions on international travel have limited research possibilities for those based outside Japan. Even though she could not have predicted a global pandemic, her insight-driven investment thesis pre-empted changes in Japanese markets, and so was all the more resilient to them when they came. Urabe’s innate appreciation of the fluctuating market environment in Japan puts her portfolio in a strong position as we begin to look towards a post-pandemic world.