Morningstar's winning fund managers of 2015

Fund Manager of the Year awards

Morningstar announced the winners of its 2015 fund manager of the year awards on Tuesday.

While the investment research firm selected those who showcased excellent investment skills, the committee doesn't only look at 2015's best-performing funds.

"One of the secrets to success in 2015 was conservatism," Jon Hale told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

The research manager added that 2015's difficult market climate encouraged Morningstar to look into managers who managed risk well and showed a long-term track record.

Morningstar awards five asset classes: domestic-stock, international-stock, fixed-income, alternatives and allocation.

Read more: Morningstar fund managers of 2014

Domestic-stock fund manager

2015's Top domestic manager shares strategy

The domestic winners are Keith Lee, Robert Hall, Kempton M. Ingersol, Damien Davis, and Andrew J. Fones at Brown Capital Management Small Company.

"[Brown Capital] has placed in the small-growth ... category's top-quartile or better in eight of the past 10 calendar years, including 2008's bear market as well as the rallies of 2009, 2012, and 2013," Morningstar's Alec Lucas noted in a release.

"The Brown team is everything you want in an investment team: it's stable, it's long tenure, they're very experienced," Janet Yang, research manager at Morningstar, told CNBC.

The managers generated an 8.8 percent in returns for 2015, and were ranked on Morningstar's 1 percentile. The fund focuses on small companies with revenues of $250 million or less. Brown targets companies that "save lives, time, money or headaches," Yang said; tech and health care make 86 percent of its portfolio.

"We don't put a lot emphasis on trying to determine what the market is going to do. We focus on those things that we can control: the analysis (analyzing our companies)," Keith Lee said, about the current market volatility to "Power Lunch."

Read more: Keep buying the winners: Technician

International-stock fund manager

2015's Top international fund manager

Robert Lovelace and his team at American Funds New Perspective snatched up the international award.

"What they did very well was they avoided emerging markets and threaded lightly in energy and basic material stocks; and leaned more towards consumer staple stocks and health care," Dan Culloton, manager of research at Morningstar told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"In the last ten years it hasn't had a calendar year falling into the lower half of the category," he said. The fund was up 5 percent in 2015; it beat 93 percent of its peers.

The team focuses on multinational blue chip companies, with at least 25 percent of revenue overseas, manages a "strictly stocks fund."

"Our process is to have multiple managers (in this case seven) investing alongside the analyst, and they bring different perspectives," David Polak, Capital Group senior vice president, told "Power Lunch," about the fund's strategy.

Fixed-income fund manager

Fixed income manager of the year

Pimco Short Term Bond 's Jerome Scheneider and team won the fixed-income award for 2015.

Pimco made "some smart bets around duration, interest rates, [and] bets in yield curve positioning ... [it] helped the fund outperform," Morningstar's Sumit Desai told CNBC.

The fund, which performed in the top 1 percent in the ultra short-term category, favors short-term Mexican and Brazilian government bonds. The team also managed to avoid commodities sell-off and volatility in the credit market, according to Morningstar.

"Folks are looking for some type of shield from volatility and the allocation to fixed income (specifically short-term fixed income) does precisely that," Jerome Scheneider said.

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Alternatives fund manager

Best alternatives fund manager

James Troyer, Michael Roach and James Stetler at Vanguard Market Neutral, were the recipients of the alternatives award.

"Their short positions went down more than their long positions did when the stock market was falling," Morningstar's Josh Charlston told CNBC. "That gave them excess returns relative both to the stock market and to other market mutual funds."

While the S&P was down about 6 percent in the third-quarter of fiscal year 2015, the fund managed to be up 7 percent, during this time the fund generated most of its returns, according to Morningstar.

"We designed this strategy so that it should not have a systematic relationship with the market," John Ameriks, principal and head of Vanguard's Quantitative Equity Group told CNBC.

"When markets are rising we want the longs to do a little better than the market does; we want the shorts to trail that," he explained about their strategy. "In a falling market, we want to the longs not to fall quite as much, we want the shorts to fall further."

Allocation fund manager

The allocation winner of 2015 were Vanguard Wellesley Income's John Keogh and Michael Reckmeyer.

"Michael Reckmeyer invests between 35 percent and 40 percent of the fund's assets in equities that pay above-average dividends, which he tries to buy when they are out of favor," Morningstar's Leo Acheson noted in a release.

"Meanwhile, John Keogh tilts the remaining 60 percent to 65 percent bond portion toward corporates rated in the A range, and he eschews big interest-rate bets," he said.

"The duo uses the market's fluctuations to rebalance the fund's mix of stocks and bonds and relies primarily on security selection to come out ahead."

The research firm attributed the allocation fund's success to stability claiming that unlike their peers, Vanguard Wellesley doesn't make tactical shifts between stocks and bonds.

CNBC's Karen Stern contributed to this report.