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Why European small and-mid cap matters

Traditionally, when there is a focus on increasing inflation and rising rates, these developments are often followed by more robust nominal economic growth. This has generally been supportive for small-cap companies. However, there are more fundamental reasons that make small and-mid cap equities an attractive asset class for investors seeking to maximise their risk and return profile from their European equity allocations.

Small and medium-size enterprises have been the lifeblood of the European economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of the workforce and more than half of the economic value added

McKinsey and Eurostat

Simply put, small and-mid cap companies provide opportunities outside of large-caps

The MSCI Europe Small-Cap Index is made up of around 1,056 constituents, with an average market-cap of US$1.5bn. The largest constituent is around US$9.3bn – so the index includes companies that have a relatively high market-cap.  In contrast, mid-caps, which are represented by the MSCI Europe Mid Cap index, comprise 232 companies with an average market cap of US8.3bn – the largest company being US$30.2bn. This creates an opportunity to access around 1,250 names with the ability to provide far more diversification across both risk and growth compared with large caps, which number around 197 companies as represented by the MSC Europe Large Cap Index[1] - which have an average market-cap of $38bn.

The sheer volume of small and mid-cap opportunities also creates a different blend of companies that are not prominent in large cap indices. This unique blend also means small and-mid cap companies represent different sectors when compared with large caps, which are traditionally weighted towards the large pharmaceutical and financial companies. This is best illustrated in the table below.

A tail of different sectors

Small Cap

Mid Cap

Large Cap













Real estate




Consumer staples


Consumer discretionary






Information technology


Consumer discretionary


Consumer discretionary


Source: MSCI, as at 31 March 2022

Many large-cap names are global companies, which a significant proportion of earnings derived from markets outside of Europe. Consequently, they are often not a pure reflection of economic activity happening domestically, and funds investing in this asset class can better respond to the cyclical differences across Europe. This is particularly beneficial as economies recover from the pandemic and navigate the increased geopolitical risks.  Alongside this, smaller and mid-sized companies tend to be at an earlier stage in their development, which can create strong growth opportunities versus large caps, which in the more mature developed market economies, can see their growth path slow.

[1] Source: MSCI as at 31 March 2022

Small businesses and mid-caps are a key part of the global economy. They create jobs and drive economic development and innovation

European Investment Bank

Furthermore, small and mid-cap equities in Europe are not a beta play. They deserve a strategic allocation in balanced portfolios and have clearly demonstrated stronger alpha versus large caps over the last five years.


MSCI Small Cap

MSCI Mid Cap

MSCI Large Cap

5-year sharpe ratio




Source: FE Trustnet, in Euros over ten years to 30 April 2022

Risk and liquidity still rules

Two factors that spring to mind with many investors when looking at small and mid-caps is risk and liquidity. From a risk standpoint, if we look at the table below, for a marginal increase in risk, small caps have delivered strong returns over the last ten years.

5-year risk & return

MSCI Small Cap

MSCI Mid Cap

MSCI Large Cap

Ten-year returns




Annualised Risk




Source: FE Trustnet, in Euros over ten years to 30 April 2022

There is also the perception that small-caps can be really impacted by market events. However, this is not often the case. When we look at the return of the above asset classes at a time when the COVID pandemic first took hold and began to have a significant impact on global markets, European small-caps lost 6.02% against large-caps, which declined 3.67%[3]. Their down capture was similar to large-caps.

Turning to liquidity, European companies faced unprecedented trading conditions during the height of COVID and this naturally raised liquidity concerns. This can be mitigated through diversification and by building a portfolio with an average capitalisation of €1bn, with the goal of limiting liquidity risk.  Companies with strong balance sheets, lower levels of debt and good cash generation, also position them in a more flexible position if there is an economic shock.

Finally, another factor is that small and mid-cap companies are less exposed to passive flows, which can usually drive volatility and liquidity. Because of their size and weighting in the index, larger companies generally account for a large percentage of passive AUM. In turn, this means fundamentals play a larger part in small and mid-cap returns.  

The route to stronger ESG

The EU introduced the ‘Sustainable Finance Action Plan in 2018 in order to meet its energy targets for 2030. This led to the EU Taxonomy, a classification system that establishes a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities to develop consistent reporting standards on ESG and climate alongside helping companies become more ESG and climate friendly. Although this only applies to large companies from January this year, along with the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (required from 2026 for small companies), we believe larger companies will set down similar reporting standards for their supply chains, which tend to be smaller to mid-sized companies – to ensure there is complete taxonomy alignment.

That said, smaller companies are also generally less-well researched, which means their innovation and focus around ESG may be overlooked by the broader market. They also have less resources compared with large-cap companies and often struggle with completing ESG and climate-data disclosures. This provides active managers with an advantage because uncovering the true extend of a smaller company’s focus on sustainability often requires a visit to that company, alongside strong engagement with senior management.

[3] Small caps represented by the MSCI Europe Small Cap Index and large caps the MSCI European Large Cap Index from 2 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 – on Euros.

Small-caps are far less researched than large-caps. SMid-caps globally are covered by three brokers on average, versus the 15 that cover the average large-cap

JP Morgan Europe Equity Research

However, through our bottom-up research, and travelling to all corners of Europe, we’ve seen first-hand that there are many examples of small and medium sized companies that are leading in the important area of ESG, reflecting their ability to innovate and be more flexible. For example, Strix is the global leader in the design, manufacture and supply of reliable kettle safety controls providing more energy efficiency and developing technologies for improving the quality of water. The company plays a strong lead in the contribution towards managing water stress – a key global issue. The small and mid-cap universe is full of these ESG leaders, and we believe this is an area of potential future value.

Furthermore, so much emphasis is placed on the ‘E’ of the ‘ESG’ – there is usually more information available on environment and governance factors and information on social factors can be relatively scarce. However, from our perspective, small and mid-sized companies play an important societal role. For example, this area of the market plays a vital part in the provision of employment, supplying 2 out of 3 jobs in the EU and Switzerland[4].  They support highly localised economies in Europe through the creation of local jobs, leading to value creation for local households.

[4] tps://

Increased resource efficiency, circular economy solutions and participation in green markets represent important opportunities for European SMEs to improve their productivity, boost their competitiveness, register growth and create employment

European Commission


This marketing material contains or may incorporate by reference information concerning certain collective investment schemes ("funds") which are only available for distribution in the registered countries.  It is for your exclusive use only and it is not intended for any person who is a citizen or resident of any jurisdiction where the publication, distribution or use of the information contained herein would be subject to any restrictions.  It may not be copied or transferred.

This material is provided for information purposes only and shall not be construed as an offer or a recommendation to subscribe, retain or dispose of fund units or shares, investment products or strategies.  Before investing in any fund or pursuing any investment strategy, potential investors should take into account all their characteristics or objectives as well as consult the relevant legal documents. Potential investors are recommended to seek prior professional financial, legal and tax advice. The sources of the information contained within are deemed reliable. However, the accuracy or completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed, and some figures may only be estimates. In addition, any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that objectives and targets will be met by the portfolio manager.

All investment involves risks, returns may decrease or increase because of currency fluctuations and investors may lose the amount of their original investment. Past performance is not indicative or a guarantee of future returns.

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Issued by: in the UK: Mirabaud Asset Management Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. In Switzerland: Mirabaud Asset Management (Suisse) SA, 29, boulevard Georges-Favon, 1204 Geneva, as Swiss representative. Swiss paying agent: Mirabaud & Cie SA, 29, boulevard Georges-Favon, 1204 Geneva. In France: Mirabaud Asset Management (France) SAS., 13, avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris. In Spain: Mirabaud Asset Management (España) S.G.I.I.C., S.A.U., Calle Fortuny, 6 - 2ª Planta, 28010 Madrid. In Luxembourg: Mirabaud Asset Management (Europe) SA, 25 avenue de la Liberté, L-1931 Luxembourg. The Prospectus, the Articles of Association, the Key Investor Information Document (KIID) as well as the annual and semi-annual reports (as the case may be), of the funds may be obtained free of charge from the above-mentioned entities and on the webpage: information on sustainability is available at the following link:

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