QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH
IN DIVIDEND GROWTH, QUALITY MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
There is a reason people always say to buy quality—a lesson that can be applied to investing as well. We believe that focusing on quality characteristics, such as return on equity (ROE) and return on assets (ROA), may lead to outperformance.
QUALITY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
And this is, after all, the cornerstone of many investment approaches, including that of Warren Buffett. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, requires1 demonstrated consistent earning power and will only consider investing in businesses earning a good return on equity while employing little or no debt. We believe this is critically important—because as investors seek to solve for income and capital growth, focusing on quality can make a significant difference.
1Source: Berkshire Hathaway annual letter to shareholders from Warren E. Buffett, 2/28/15.
Additionally, many ETFs use backward-looking screens that require historical patterns of dividend growth for constituents to gain inclusion. The result: more recent dividend initiators, such as those in the information technology sector, may be barred from inclusion. In contrast, WisdomTree uses a forward-looking approach designed to capitalize on companies that are growing their dividends and that we believe also have future dividend growth potential..
THE DIFFERENCE QUALITY MAKES
The idea of quality investing has a long and rather prestigious history.
From Warren Buffett—arguably one of the most famous and successful investors of all time—and Benjamin Graham to Eugene Fama and Kenneth French, each focuses on quality attributes such as profitability and low debt ratios as part of their selection criteria. Even academics such as Robert Novy-Marx believe in the superiority of quality investments over time. And the performance certainly backs up their belief in quality.
A LOOK AT PERFORMANCE
Arranging the U.S. market into quintiles based on operating profitability, for example, demonstrates that high-quality stocks have won over longer holding periods. In the chart below, consider that, over the period, the two highest quality quintiles not only outperformed the lower-quality quintiles, but also the market—and with higher Sharpe ratios as well.
SMALL CAPS. BIG QUALITY.
Quality is not limited to large-cap stocks. Fama and French, as well as other notable investors, have explored the idea of small caps and quality factors. And while they may be best known for discovering the “small-cap value premium,” the data below suggests that a small-cap quality premium exists as well—as illustrated by small cap, high quality outperforming low quality over the period.
MARRYING QUALITY AND VALUE
WisdomTree has long been a proponent of the benefits of value investing. And Fama and French are well-known advocates as well, helping to prove the existence of the “value” premium.
It’s interesting to examine how quality and value perform against—and complement—each other. We used Kenneth French Data Library data focused on quality and value to make the comparisons.
QUALITY AS A HEDGE FOR VALUE?
While value strategies focus on how price relates to fundamentals such as dividends, earnings or book value, quality factors focus on the inherent stability of the fundamentals themselves—making them interesting complements.
Further, academic research has suggested that, as quality and value typically perform at different times, quality can act as a “growth” engine, essentially providing a potential “hedge” for value strategies when they may be out of favor. We tested the theory below. When the USA Quality was outperforming, the USA Value was underperforming to a similar degree—and vice versa.
The USA Quality refers to the universe of listed stocks in the United States within the top 30% of the operating profitability. The USA Value refers to the universe of listed stocks in the United States within the top 30% of book to market.
QUALITY AROUND THE WORLD
The advantages of quality are not limited to the United States.
In fact, with the exception of a challenging ten- and fifteen-year period in the Japan Quality Stocks, quality tended to outperform around the world—especially over longer periods. And it tended to provide higher Sharpe ratios as well.
Source: Kenneth French Data Library. Large cap stocks within the top 90% of the market capitalization of the respective regional universe were used. For the measure of operating profitability, stocks within the top 30% of the universe were used. The universe refers to publicly listed equities in the respective region that have appropriate fundamental data availability such that operating profitability can be measured across time. Past performance is not indicative of future results. You cannot invest directly in an index.
Kenneth French Data Library. Large cap stocks within the top 90% of the market capitalization of the respective regional universe were used. For the measure of operating profitability, stocks within the top 30% of the universe were used. The universe refers to publicly listed equities in the respective region that have appropriate fundamental data availability such that operating profitability can be measured across time. Past performance is not indicative of future results. You cannot invest directly in an index.
THE FUTURE OF DIVIDENDS
Not only do some of the dividend growth ETFs fail to look at quality factors, they also tend to use backward-looking screens that require a history of 10, 20 or even 25 years of dividend growth before they can be eligible for inclusion.
While this may sound like a good idea, we believe that investors desire today’s highest dividend payers, rather than those from a decade ago or more.
SCREENING FOR GROWTH OR EXCLUDING IT?
Dividends have been growing at an incredible pace in recent years, with the technology industry leading the pack. But ETFs that utilize backward-looking screens will not include these dividend leaders, possibly for many years. Consider that:
- The U.S. Dividend Stream® hit a record high of $456.26 billion on November 30, 2016.
- Technology firms have been the greatest contributors to dividend growth over the past nine years—accounting for more than 30% of the increase in dividends between November 30, 2007, and November 30, 2016.
One of the most popular indexes, the NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers Select Index (VIG), requires 10 years of dividend growth for a company to be included (and some others require far more). WisdomTree’s Dividend Growth Indexes have no such requirement. For example, the WisdomTree U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Index (DGRW) can include companies such as Apple and IBM, which are paying some of the largest dividends today. In fact, approximately 60% of the top 10 dividend payers from DGRW are excluded from VIG—and will be for some time. Plus, if any of these dividend payers fail to grow their dividends for even one year, even if they are still paying a dividend, the clock will reset and it will take another 10 years for them to become eligible.
WISDOMTREE QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FAMILY
WisdomTree's family of forward-looking quality dividend growth Funds is designed to help you capitalize on today’s quality and dividend growth trends across domestic and international markets.
U.S. SMALLCAP QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
The WisdomTree U.S. SmallCap Quality Dividend Growth Fund (DGRS) helps investors gain exposure to the small American companies that are well positioned to grow their dividends the fastest.
EUROPE QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
Many of the world’s leading brands are in Europe. The WisdomTree Europe Quality Dividend Growth Fund (EUDG) provides the potential to capitalize on the outperformance of quality among European dividend payers.
JAPAN HEDGED QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
Over the past year, Abenomics has begun to pay big dividends—literally. The WisdomTree Japan Hedged Quality Dividend Growth Fund (JHDG) is a forward-looking fund designed to help investors capitalize on the Japanese companies growing their dividends the fastest, while hedging out the effects of the yen.
INTERNATIONAL HEDGED QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
The WisdomTree International Hedged Quality Dividend Growth Fund (IHDG) (which covers the same 21 markets as the MSCI EAFE Index) uses WisdomTree’s proprietary growth and quality methodology to identify companies with better chances of future dividend growth. In essence, the approach focuses on the potential dividend growers of tomorrow without the currency risk associated with international markets.
Learn more about IHDG
INTERNATIONAL QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
The WisdomTree International Quality Dividend Growth Fund (IQDG) provides the potential to capitalize on the International quality companies positioned to grow their dividends the fastest.
Learn More About IQDG
DYNAMIC CURRENCY HEDGED INTERNATIONAL QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
With an emphasis on quality, The WisdomTree Dynamic Currency Hedged International Quality Dividend Growth Fund (DHDG) features exposure to developed market stocks that have consistently paid dividends. DHDG's dynamic currency hedging mechanism helps investors to mitigate currency exposure.
GLOBAL EX-U.S. QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
Global companies provide diversification potential to domestic portfolios. The WisdomTree Global ex-U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Fund (DNL) enables investors to capitalize on the quality companies and fastest dividend growers outside the United States.
Learn more about DNL
EMERGING MARKETS QUALITY DIVIDEND GROWTH FUND
Emerging markets still represent tremendous growth opportunities. The WisdomTree Emerging Markets Quality Dividend Growth Fund (DGRE) uses a proprietary growth and quality methodology to identify the emerging markets companies with better chances of future dividend growth.
WisdomTree looks at quality characteristics in addition to dividends. In fact, return on equity, return on assets and earnings growth are key drivers of the stock selection in our Dividend Growth family. Why? In addition to the outperformance demonstrated by quality, finance theory and the dividend discount model suggest that return on equity is intimately related to dividend growth—so in theory, the higher the ROE, the higher the sustainable dividend growth of that company. Our family is where this theory meets reality.
INDEX METHODOLOGY SUMMARY
The following general principles are used in creating the WisdomTree Quality Dividend Growth Indexes:
- Companies must have a dividend ratio greater than 1.0x. Companies that are paying out more dividends than they have earnings are less likely, we believe, to be dividend growth leaders.
- The Indexes combine the companies with the best quality and growth rankings from their respective universes:
- Growth Ranking 50%: Derived from analysts’ long-term earnings growth expectations, which ultimately encompass the estimated growth in operating earnings per share over the company’s next full business cycle, typically three to five years
- Quality Ranking 50%: Split evenly between the three-year average return on assets and return on equity
Weighting: The indexes are Dividend Stream-weighted to reflect the proportionate share of the aggregate cash dividends. This gives greater weight to companies growing their dividends, as well as having the potential to raise the trailing 12-month dividend yield of the total portfolio. The Dividend Stream weighting methodology also brings a value tilt to the quality and growth selection.