Fund Goal and Approach
The fund seeks long-term total return. This objective may be changed by the fund's board, upon 60 day's prior notice to shareholders. To pursue its goal, the fund normally invests at least 80% of its net assets, plus any borrowings for investment purposes, in equity securities of companies located in the United States. The fund may invest in the securities of companies of any market capitalization. The fund invests principally in common stocks, but its equity investments also may include preferred stocks, convertible securities and warrants.
The fund's sub-investment adviser, Walter Scott & Partners Limited (Walter Scott), seeks investment opportunities in companies with fundamental strengths that indicate the potential for sustainable growth. Walter Scott focuses on individual stock selection, building the fund's portfolio from the bottom up through extensive fundamental research.
The investment process begins with the screening of reported company financials. Companies that meet certain broad absolute and trend criteria are candidates for more detailed financial analysis. For these companies, Walter Scott restates the company's income statement, flow of funds, and balance sheet to a cash basis. This analysis assists Walter Scott in identifying the nature of the operating margin, working capital management and the profitability and financing model of the company. Core to the analysis is thorough understanding of the cash generating strengths of a company and thereby a company's ability to achieve self-financed growth so far as possible. If a company passes Walter Scott's stringent financial criteria, Walter Scott then conducts a detailed investigation of the company's products, cost and pricing, competition and industry position and outlook. Walter Scott will also typically meet with senior management of a company as part of the research process. The objective underlying all aspects of this extensive process is to understand whether the company has the ability to generate sustained growth in the future. In assessing the valuation of an individual stock Walter Scott uses various measures, including price-to-earnings ratio versus growth rate, price-to-cash and price-to-book. The fund's Investment Team collectively reviews and selects those stocks that meet Walter Scott's criteria and where the expected growth rate is combined with a reasonable valuation for the underlying equity. A buy proposal requires the backing of the broad investment team while a sell decision requires only one dissenting voice.
Market capitalization and sector allocations are results of, not part of, the investment process. Walter Scott does not use benchmark indices as a tool for active portfolio management. Traditional benchmark indices, however, may be helpful in measuring investment returns, and the fund's investment returns generally will be compared to those of the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) USA Index. The MSCI USA Index is an unmanaged, market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of publicly traded stocks issued by companies in the United States. Although the fund invests primarily in equity securities of U.S. issuers, the fund may invest up to 15% of its assets in equity securities of foreign issuers, including those in emerging market countries.
Walter Scott believes that a patient investment approach is necessary to give the companies in which the fund invests an opportunity to realize their growth potential and to allow for compounding of returns. Accordingly, it is expected that the fund typically will maintain a low annual portfolio turnover rate.
Walter Scott typically sells a stock when it no longer possesses the characteristics that caused its purchase. A stock may be a sell candidate when its valuation reaches or exceeds its calculated fair value, or there are deteriorating fundamentals. Walter Scott may reduce the weighting of a stock held by the fund if it becomes overweighted as determined by Walter Scott.
Although not a principal investment strategy, the fund may, but is not required to, use derivatives, such as options, futures and options on futures (including those relating to securities, indexes and foreign currencies), and forward contracts, as a substitute for investing directly in an underlying asset, to increase returns, to manage foreign currency risk, or as part of a hedging strategy.
An investment in the fund is not a bank deposit. It is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. It is not a complete investment program. The value of your investment in the fund will fluctuate, sometimes dramatically, which means you could lose money.
* Risks of stock investing. Stocks generally fluctuate more in value than bonds and may decline significantly over short time periods. There is the chance that stock prices overall will decline because stock markets tend to move in cycles, with periods of rising prices and falling prices. The market value of a stock may decline due to general market conditions that are not related to the particular company, such as real or perceived adverse economic conditions, changes in the outlook for corporate earnings, changes in interest or currency rates, or adverse investor sentiment generally. A security's market value also may decline because of factors that affect a particular industry, such as labor shortages or increased production costs and competitive conditions within an industry, or factors that affect a particular company, such as management performance, financial leverage, and reduced demand for the company's products or services.
* Small and midsize company risk. Small and midsize companies carry additional risks because the operating histories of these companies tend to be more limited, their earnings and revenues less predictable (and some companies may be experiencing significant losses), and their share prices more volatile than those of larger, more established companies. The shares of smaller companies tend to trade less frequently than those of larger, more established companies, which can adversely affect the pricing of these securities and the fund's ability to sell these securities. These companies may have limited product lines, markets or financial resources, or may depend on a limited management group. Some of the fund's investments will rise and fall based on investor perception rather than economic factors. Other investments are made in anticipation of future products, services or events whose delay or cancellation could cause the stock price to drop.
* Growth stock risk. Investors often expect growth companies to increase their earnings at a certain rate. If these expectations are not met, investors can punish the stocks inordinately, even if earnings do increase. In addition, growth stocks may lack the dividend yield that may cushion stock prices in market downturns.
* Market sector risk. The fund may significantly overweight or underweight certain companies, industries or market sectors, which may cause the fund's performance to be more or less sensitive to developments affecting those companies, industries or sectors.
* Liquidity risk. When there is little or no active trading market for specific types of securities, it can become more difficult to sell the securities at or near their perceived value. In such a market, the value of such securities and the fund's share price may fall dramatically. Investments in foreign securities, particularly those of issuers located in emerging markets, may have greater exposure to liquidity risk than domestic securities.
In addition to the principal risks described above, the fund is subject to the following additional risks.
* Foreign investment risk. To the extent the fund invests in foreign securities, the fund's performance will be influenced by political, social and economic factors affecting investments in foreign issuers. Special risks associated with investments in foreign issuers include exposure to currency fluctuations, less liquidity, less developed or less efficient trading markets, lack of comprehensive company information, political and economic instability and differing auditing and legal standards. Investments denominated in foreign currencies are subject to the risk that such currencies will decline in value relative to the U.S. dollar and affect the value of these investments held by the fund. Emerging markets tend to be more volatile and less liquid than the markets of more mature economies, and generally have less diverse and less mature economic structures and less stable political systems than those of developed countries.
* Derivatives risk. A small investment in derivatives could have a potentially large impact on the fund's performance. The use of derivatives involves risks different from, or possibly greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in the underlying assets. Derivatives can be highly volatile, illiquid and difficult to value, and there is the risk that changes in the value of a derivative held by the fund will not correlate with the underlying instruments or the fund's other investments. Derivative instruments, such as forward contracts and over-the-counter options, also involve the risk that a loss may be sustained as a result of the failure of the counterparty to the derivative instruments to make required payments or otherwise comply with the derivative instruments' terms. Many of the regulatory protections afforded participants on organized exchanges for futures contracts and exchange-traded options, such as the performance guarantee of an exchange clearing house, are not available in connection with over-the-counter derivative transactions. Certain types of derivatives, including forward contracts and other over-the-counter transactions, involve greater risks than the underlying obligations because, in addition to general market risks, they are subject to illiquidity risk, counterparty risk, credit risk and pricing risk. Because many derivatives have a leverage component, adverse changes in the value or level of the underlying asset, reference rate or index can result in a loss substantially greater than the amount invested in the derivative itself. Certain derivatives have the potential for unlimited loss, regardless of the size of the initial investment. The fund may be required to segregate liquid assets, or otherwise cover its obligations, relating to the fund's transactions in derivatives.
* Leverage risk. The use of leverage, such as engaging in reverse repurchase agreements, entering into futures contracts or forward currency contracts and engaging in forward commitment transactions, may magnify the fund's gains or losses.
* Other potential risks. The fund may lend its portfolio securities to brokers, dealers and other financial institutions. In connection with such loans, the fund will receive collateral from the borrower equal to at least 100% of the value of loaned securities. If the borrower of the securities fails financially, there could be delays in recovering the loaned securities or exercising rights to the collateral.
Under adverse market conditions, the fund could invest some or all of its assets in U.S. Treasury securities and money market securities. Although the fund would do this for temporary defensive purposes, it could reduce the benefit from any upswing in the market. During such periods, the fund may not achieve its investment objective.
Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the fund carefully before investing. Download a prospectus, or a summary prospectus, if available, that contains this and other information about the fund, and read it carefully before investing.