Morningstar Highlights Negative Fund Manager Changes In 2015

Morningstar Highlights Negative Fund Manager Changes In 2015

Fund managers are obviously the most critical factor in the performance of a fund. By the same token, change in the management of funds can have a big impact — positive or negative — on the performance of a fund.

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That said, according to Russel Kinnel, director of manager research for Morningstar, it looks like most of the changes in fund management in 2015 are neutral or negative in terms of the projected future performance of the fund.

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Major fund manager changes in 2015

Buffalo Small Cap (BUFSX)

On 07-20-2015, Buffalo Small Cap’s fund manager Kent Gasaway resigned for health reasons, but comanagers Bob Male and Jamie Cuellar remain at the fund. Kinnel says: “Gasaway had been a leader at Buffalo, so his departure stings. In addition, he left while the fund is mired in a slump and nearly half its assets have gone out the door this year. The combination of these three factors led us to lower the fund’s rating to Neutral from Bronze.”

Columbia Acorn (ACRNX), Columbia Acorn USA (AUSAX)

Of note, lead fund manager Rob Mohn resigned on October 1, 2015. That said, Comanager David Frank is still with the firm, and Zach Egan and Fritz Kaegi have recently been added as comanagers of Columbia Acorn. No new managers joined the team at Columbia Acorn USA, where William Doyle serves as Mohn’s comanager. Kinnel says: “Poor performance has spurred changes at these funds. We lowered Columbia Acorn’s rating to Neutral from Bronze in 2014 because of concerns about redemptions and poor performance. Columbia Acorn USA had been rated Bronze and is now rated Neutral.”

Matthews Pacific Tiger (MAPTX)

As of 09-09-2015, Matthews Pacific Tiger comanager In-Bok Song departed to become an analyst at Thornburg. Richard Gao also left the fund in July of this year. Kinnel says the departure is really not that big a deal: “Although Song was not the lead, her departure along with Gao’s led us to lower the fund’s rating to Silver from Gold. As the rating implies, we still think the fund is in good hands. Sharat Shroff has experience and a track record at Matthews that inspires confidence. The fund recently reopened because of outflows seen at most Asia funds.”

Perkins Mid Cap Value (JMCVX)

Comanager Jeff Kautz departed on 04-05-2015. Kevin Preloger, who was named co-manager in April 2013, is still with the firm and Justin Tugman of Perkins Small Cap Value (JSCVX) was added to the management team. Kinnel notes: “The fund has been trying to get back on track after several years of underwhelming performance. The fact that its five-year results aren’t up to par isn’t surprising or disappointing given the fund’s relatively conservative process, but weak stock-picking is more cause for concern. The loss of a long-tenured manager is disappointing but not insurmountable. Risk-adjusted results since inception remain strong. However, Kautz’s departure, coupled with the fund’s stock-picking woes, was enough to move this fund’s rating to Bronze from Silver.”

T. Rowe Price International Stock (PRITX)

On 04-01-2015, Bob Smith resigned, and Richard Clattenburg took his place as the manager of T. Rowe Price International Stock. Clattenburg has been with T. Rowe Price since 2005, moving up to associate portfolio manager. Kinnel says: “Clattenburg lacks a track record as a portfolio manager, so it’s a big drop from the seasoned Smith. We’ve lowered our rating to Neutral from Silver.”

USAA International (USIFX)

On 08-28-2015, USAA hired Lazard Asset Management and Wellington Management and gave each 15% to manage. MFS managers Marcus Smith and Daniel Ling are staying on to manage the remaining 70% of the fund. Kinnel notes: “Wellington and Lazard are solid managers. MFS has done such a good job that we’d rather not see them diluted, but they are still having quite an impact at 70%. We are maintaining our Bronze rating.”

Vanguard Convertible Securities (VCVSX)

On the first of June, fund manager Larry Keele stepped down and Stuart Spangler stepped in. Kinnel opines: “Subadvisor Oaktree is an excellent firm, so we remain confident in the fund, but it’s still a blow to lose Keele, who has built a great record here. We lowered our rating to Bronze from Gold.”

Vanguard Windsor II (VWNFX)

Vanguard Windsor II lead manager James Barrow will move on at the end of the year. Comanagers Jeff Fahrenbruch and David Ganucheau have been picked to replace him. The two men have been comanagers since 2013, and eight years ago Vanguard announced the duo would succeed Barrrow. Kinnel notes: “We knew Barrow would retire in the relatively near future, so this is not a surprise. Still, Barrow’s outstanding record makes it a real loss. His replacements are seasoned but do not have long track records of their own. We have lowered our rating to Bronze from Silver.”

Wasatch Small Cap Growth (WAAEX)

In another preannounced move, Jeff Cardon will step down as lead portfolio manager of Wasatch Small Cap Growth and as CEO of Wasatch Advisors on 02-01-2016. That said, he is staying on a comanager on the fund. J.B. Taylor is slated to move into Cardon’s role as CEO and lead manager on the fund. Kinnel says: “This looks like a gradual evolution. We are maintaining our Gold rating but will watch closely to see how involved Cardon is. On the plus side, Taylor has a strong record, too.”

Weitz Value (WVALX)

Wally Weitz is stepping down from management at Weitz Value at the end of the year. He is staying on as manager at Weitz Partners Value (WPVLX) and Weitz Hickory (WEHIX). Current comanagers Brad Hinton and Dave Perkins will step into Weitz’s shoes. Kinnel remains sanguine on the loss of a founder: “Weitz’s departure from the fund is a loss, but he’s been working on the transition for years, and we feel good about Hinton and Perkins. We are maintaining our Silver rating.”

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