Group's difficulties continue to deepen as two more fund managers hand in their resignations
Bond fund managers Peter Geikie-Cobb and Andrew Fisch are the latest managers to resign from Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (MLIM).
Geikie-Cobb formerly ran the £91.1m Merrill Lynch Global Bond fund, as well as institutional mandates, while Fisch managed purely institutional money.
The resignations come at a difficult time for Merrills, following the loss of the pension mandates of Provident Financial Plc and the Co-Operative Group. The latter cited concerns over the number of high-profile fund manager departures at Merrills as part of the justification for its move.
That view has been echoed by John Husselbee, head of the fund of funds offering at Hendersons, which has sold out of all Merrill Lynch funds. Husselbee believes Merrills should now be rated as a hold rather than a buy for investors.
MLIM said Fisch resigned from the company to pursue other interests, while Geikie-Cobb has retired. He will leave the group in six months time, again to pursue other interests.
Other managers who have left since the start of the year include Carol Galley, Jeffrey Peek, Stephen Zimmermann, David Urch, Habib Annous, Chris Alexander, Anne Richards, Chris Field and James de Uphaugh.
Meanwhile, MLIM has announced the appointment of a number of key personnel. Lydia Vitalis is to become head of product management and development of the group's international retail fund ranges. She joins from HSBC Asset Management where she was an associate director in global marketing.
Christopher Wyllie arrives from Schroder Investment Management, where he headed up the UK Equity Strategy team. MLIM said Wyllie will take up a senior fund management position on the UK Core Equity team.
Analyst Paul Clifton is joining from Watson Wyatt where he was a global research analyst responsible for research into pharmaceutical, healthcare and biotechnology. He will perform a similar a role at MLIM.
Husselbee said: 'Merrill Lynch has gone through an enormous change. We were big fans of the old Mercury set up but, as with any takeover, many things change within a couple of years. Merrills was orientated towards the retail market and that has disappeared.'
Husselbee cited poor news flow about Merrills from the US and the number of UK-based fund managers who have been leaving in recent months as two big negatives for the group.
MLIM had put aside a year to move the management of all US equity mandates to its North American office. However, spokesman Nigel Webb said the plans had been indefinitely shelved following the events of 11 September.
Husselbee noted the recent departure of UK smaller companies manager Annous had been a particularly significant blow to the house. He said: 'We sold the majority of our exposure in the fourth quarter last year but we had been thinking about investing with Annous. He is the sort of quality manager Merrills needs to bring it back to the forefront of UK retail business.'
Husselbee believes Merrills will have to promote some staff internally to enhance its fund management team but also predicts the group will look to bring in respected managers from outside.
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