Morningstar Australia managing director Jamie Wickham flanked by Vanguard's Jeffrey Johnson left and Duncan Burns right

An Australian asset manager known for its late founder's tireless work advocating for individual investors has again been awarded Morningstar's Fund Manager of the Year.

Vanguard Australia, whose American-founder Jack Bogle, “the father of passive investing”, died earlier this year, took home the top honour at an award ceremony on Friday surrounded by Australia's top investment managers.

Vanguard, which also grabbed the award in 2016, is synonymous with low-cost index funds, and has more than $6.9 trillion in assets under management globally, including more than $1.2 trillion in exchange-traded funds.

AllianceBernstein Australia beat two established growth boutique firms to win best Domestic Equities-Large Cap manager, while Fidelity Future Leader portfolio manager James Abela accepted the award for Domestic Equities-Small Cap manager for the second year in a row.

Both funds were recognised for their skill in navigating the turbulence that rocked Australian equity markets at the end of last year.

Vanguard was a stand-out choice for this years' award, consistently outperforming its peers across several categories, said Aman Ramrakha, Morningstar director of manager research ratings, Asia Pacific.

"Vanguard continues to demonstrate the power of its low-cost simple approach to providing investment solutions to investors," he said.

"Many of our winners have demonstrated that active managers can and continue to add value but with strong showings and a win across a number of categories Vanguard thoroughly deserves the overall award."

The award follows the death on 16 January of Bogle at age 89, who was hailed as a pioneer in the way he gave individuals a cheap and accessible way to invest. Aman said the award was an opportunity for the industry reflect on the “investor first” approach Vanguard bestowed on the industry.

The award for International Equities Manager went to Hamish Douglass's Magellan Asset Management, while UBS Asset Management was named top of the class in the Australian fixed interest category.

AustralianSuper won Multisector manager. In accepting the award, AustralianSuper’s manager for investment communications thanked the room, many of whom manage money on behalf of the fund.

Winners are picked on a combination of qualitative research by Morningstar manager research analysts; risk-adjusted returns over medium- to long-term periods; and performance in the 2018 calendar year.

Morningstar's manager research analysts assess the track record for a fund based on Morningstar's Risk-Adjusted Return measure over the one-, three-, and five-year periods.

The objective is to screen for fund managers that have provided consistently strong returns, and not just reward those with the most impressive one-year return but have otherwise struggled to impress.

In the Kiwi category, Nikko Asset Management won Morningstar's New Zealand Fund Manager of the Year award for the second year in a row, edging out Harbour Asset Management and Milford Asset Management.

The night also marked the promotion of a newcomer to the Australian investing scene, Dallas-based asset manager Barrow, Hanley, Mewhinney and Strauss.

The firm, founded in 1979, got the Morningstar gong for Undiscovered Manager. Their global equity strategy was recently included in Morningstar’s full coverage.

"Anyone looking for global equity exposure with a value tilt should consider what’s on offer here," said Ramrakha.

"It’s recent graduation to full coverage and a Morningstar Analyst rating of Bronze reflects our conviction that this is a global value manager we believe can outperform over the long term."

The event, which coincided with the end of half-year reporting season, was well attended by fund managers from across the industry celebrating the end of 2018. 

Morningstar Australia Awards winners by category

Australian Fund Manager of the Year

  • Winner - Vanguard Investments Australia
  • AustralianSuper
  • Magellan Asset Management

Multisector Category, Australia

  • Winner – AustralianSuper
  • Sunsuper
  • Vanguard Investments Australia

Fixed Interest Category, Australia

  • Winner - UBS Asset Management
  • Colchester Global Investors
  • Vanguard Investments Australia

Domestic Equities Large-Cap Category, Australia

  • Winner – AllianceBernstein Australia
  • Hyperion Asset Management
  • Platypus Asset Management

Domestic Equities Small-Cap Category, Australia

  • Winner – Fidelity International
  • Colonial First State Global Asset Management – Core
  • Investors Mutual

International Equities Category, Australia

  • Winner - Magellan Asset Management
  • Generation Investment Management
  • Walter Scott & Partners

Property & Infrastructure Category, Australia

  • Winner – Vanguard Investments Australia
  • Ironbark Paladin Property Securities
  • Magellan Global Infrastructure

Undiscovered Manager Category, Australia

  • Winner - Barrow Hanley Global Equities
  • Capital Group New World
  • JPMorgan Global Macro Opportunities

New Zealand Fund Manager of the Year

  • Winner - Nikko Asset Management
  • Harbour Asset Management
  • Milford Asset Management