Fin Opps manager looks to conjure up past magic

Financials fund stockpicker Guy de Blonay has said he is excited about the prospects for the once-great Jupiter Financial Opportunities fund after years of lacklustre returns.

The manager (pictured) said he had “rarely been so pleased” with the £536m portfolio since he became a named manager in 2010, hailing a decision to refocus the fund on his bread-and- butter interest in company fundamentals, rather than macroeconomic factors.

He told Investment Adviser he was “excited about the prospects unfolding” for the portfolio, which famously returned 792 per cent in the 13 years to June 2010 under former manager Philip Gibbs.

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Swiss-born Mr de Blonay was a protégé of Jupiter’s macro guru Mr Gibbs in the early years of his career, before joining New Star Asset Management in 2001 to take on his own financials funds.

After New Star was sold off in 2009, Mr de Blonay returned to Jupiter, becoming a named co-manager with Mr Gibbs on Financial Opportunities in June 2010. But Mr Gibbs’s focus on investing based on macro factors dominated the fund and after the credit crunch he remained defensively positioned, missing out on much of the post-2009 market rallies.

In the period the two managers ran the fund, from June 2010 to when Mr Gibbs stepped down on October 2011, it lost 19.1 per cent versus an MSCI AC Financials index loss of just 7.6 per cent in sterling terms, according to FE data.

After Mr Gibbs left and Mr de Blonay was joined by current co-manager Robert Mumby, the team refocused on company fundamentals.

“In the early stages after I took over, the fund was influenced by a macro decision that was not favourable – we underestimated the power of central banks to influence markets,” said Mr de Blonay. “In the past two years, we decided to re-emphasise our bottom up analysis with less importance placed on the macro. This stockpicking app-roach has helped in the past 12-18 months.”

In the past year, the fund gained 15.5 per cent compared with an index gain of 8.5 per cent, boosted by a strong past two months, the data shows.

“I’ve rarely been so pleased with the types of companies and themes in the portfolio as in the past year or so,” Mr de Blonay said. The manager did not rule out a return to the fund’s previous macro focus, but he said the investment environment was unlikely to return to the difficulties it faced in 2008-09.

He said: “There is always a possibility that we come back to a difficult environment, but I would be very surprised indeed if we have another crisis of this magnitude.”