move is part of a plan for the group to reinvent itself as a niche fund manager
Martin Currie is moving to a global thematic investment process as part of its plan to reinvent itself as a niche fund management operation.
As a result, the traditional structure with heads of equity desks being altered. The majority of managers are being organised along global sector teams, while others will remain responsible for individual product areas, such as Michael Thomas on Japan or Jean de Bolle on emerging markets.
So far, Martin Currie has appointed five sector heads: Wendy Anderson, who joined in January this year, is responsible for energy and utilities, while financials is covered by Grant Wilson. Telecoms is run by John Monnelly, industrials by Chris Butler and materials by Slim Feriani. More appointments are likely to follow.
These developments have prompted the group to alter its branding, seeking to convey a more dynamic image. The Martin Currie name will remain but the future of its pine cone logo and its existing corporate colours remains up for debate.
The changes follow a period of internal review headed up by chief investment officer James Fairweather. This concluded that, as world equity markets become more correlated, with the exception of Japan, outperformance will be increasingly difficult to generate from geographic asset allocation. Outperformance will instead be produced by investing on a thematic basis with a greater emphasis on stock selection.
Fairweather's review took place between April and October last year and the group has been implementing its recommendations since then. Martin Currie stressed the process is one of evolution rather than revolution.
The changes are also being reflected in Martin Currie's decision to use its manager teams to run aggressively managed stockpicking funds for the top end of the retail market, high alpha and high beta satellite-style portfolios for the institutional market and long/short hedge funds.
The group's confidence in bringing out hedge and aggressive long-only funds has increased since it hired Dan Gardner as head of risk in 2001, a role he previously filled at Morley.
Jeff Saunders, who joined the group from Standard Life Investments in November 2000, is running just 27 stocks in the UK Growth unit trust. Since his arrival, Martin Currie has also launched a long/short hedge fund for him, which now has assets of some $11.5m.
Keith Falconer, managing director for sales and marketing at Martin Currie, said the group is heavily marketing Saunders's long-only fund to intermediaries and institutional investors. Last month, the group recruited David Urch from Merrill Lynch's Global Titans team to help Saunders run the UK growth product.
Martin Currie is looking to launch two further hedge funds this year to sit alongside Saunders's vehicle and Thomas's $140m Japan hedge fund. An Asia ex-Australia and New Zealand portfolio is likely to be launched next, headed up by Jason Mackay and Taiwan and China specialist Chris Ruffle.
Falconer said: 'We will only launch hedge funds where we have good fund managers, with good processes and where we believe their skills lend themselves to short selling.'
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