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Brazier's exit from Ninety One poses burning questions for DFMs

The folks at Ninety One have found themselves having to reassure holders of the popular UK Alpha fund that it is business as usual, despite the exit of Simon Brazier, who managed it for eight years.

The UK Alpha fund is the fourth popular UK growth fund on our database, held by five allocators.

It has long been among the "big four" most popular UK growth funds in our database, along with Liontrust Special Situations, Lindsell Train UK Equity and Man GLG Undervalued Assets.

But the fund, which is just more than £1bn in size, has struggled for performance in recent years, returning around 4 per cent on a three year view, compared with 8 per cent for the peer group.

That might explain why three allocators sold the fund last year and it has now been caught up by JOHCM UK Dynamic.

This development - combined with the ever-growing popularity of Liontrust Special Situations and Lindsell Train UK Equity - means it is increasingly accurate to say there is a "big two" dominating the UK growth sector.

Brazier will be replaced with Anna Farmbrough and Ben Needham, the former having co-managed the UK Alpha strategy with Brazier since July last year.

Ninety One expects no impact to the strategies but Peter Toogood of The Adviser Centre has taken it off his ‘recommended’ list, saying Brazier’s own views and interpretation of the economic cycle have had a significant influence on the fund.

Whatever your thoughts on the fund itself, more managers will likely depart in the next year as the industry consolidates, leaving allocators with tricky decisions to make.

The fact this week also saw the departure of Robin Geffen from Liontrust, which bought his Neptune business in 2019, further hammers this point home - though none of the funds Geffen manages, the largest of which is Liontrust Balanced, are owned by any of the DFMs we cover.

(Incidentally Geffen's funds are being taken over by Tom Record as part of a wider shake-up of Liontrust's global equity team)

Nick Wood, head of fund research at Quilter Cheviot, said: "For those with little access to the remaining teams, it may be that switching to a rival fund will be the easy outcome...but the easy one is not always the correct one."

Given that turbulence in markets usually leads to consolidation across asset management, it may be that more managers head for the exit in the year ahead, and allocators may have more decisions to make.

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