Nov 9 2015

Stewart changes ‘unsettling’ for investors

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Stewart changes ‘unsettling’ for investors

Fund selectors have raised question marks over Jonathan Asante’s decision to step back from his flagship Stewart Investors fund, saying his successors have “something to prove”.

Mr Asante (pictured) is set to step back from being a named manager on the Stewart Investors Emerging Markets Leaders fund, as part of a raft of changes announced by the asset manager today, which also included Angus Tulloch handing over lead manager responsibilities for his Asia Pacific Leaders fund.

Reaction from the industry indicated a lack of surprise at Mr Tulloch’s move, helped by the strong track record of his successor David Gait.

But there was more concern about Mr Asante’s move, given the relative inexperience of the new managers Ashish Swarup and Tom Prew.

Both Mr Asante and Mr Tulloch are expected to remain involved with the teams running their former funds.

But their stepping back as named managers has led ratings agency FundCalibre to remove its elite rating from the Stewart Investors Global Emerging Market Leaders and Stewart Investors Asia Pacific Leaders funds, as well as the Stewart Investors Latin America fund.

FundCalibre’s managing director, Darius McDermott, said the news was “very unsettling for investors”, especially given the recent split at First State which saw its managers split into two distinct teams.

He said: “Ashish Swarup has been doing some good work behind the scenes since his arrival from Fidelity, and we like the work Tom Prew did with the Latin America fund, but they will have something to prove.”

Gavin Haynes, managing director at Whitechurch Securities, said he had been “quite surprised” by Jonathan Asante stepping back from his flagship fund to instead concentrate on his smaller global equity funds.

He said: “We would have thought [the Emerging Markets Leaders fund] would be the one he would want to keep his name to because it is high profile and a flagship fund.”

By contrast, Mr Haynes said Mr Tulloch’s move was “not unexpected” and he had been expecting him to step back from the Asia Pacific Leaders fund for some time.

Mr Haynes said he was happy to continue to be invested in the fund when Mr Gait takes it over, though he said he was “going to keep a close eye on it” now that he no longer has “that reassurance we had with [Angus] at the helm”.

Jason Hollands, managing director at Tilney Bestinvest, said there “really is no need for a knee jerk reaction” from investors within any of the affected funds, stressing the team-based approach at Stewart Investors and the long transition period for the manager changeover.