The group has kept its business under review since its management buyout with Hellman & Friedman in 2006, since when several of its top fund managers have left.
The latest to have their futures thrown into doubt include head of multi-manager Bambos Hambi, who has been replaced by his deputy Tony Lanning on the five-strong range.
Hambi is in consultations over his future with the group while it looks at consolidating the multi-manager range.
European growth and focus manager Tim Callaghan and head of investment trusts Jim Tennant are also in limbo as their departments are restructured. Tennant has been replaced by head of investor relations Melissa Jones while Callaghan sees his funds pass to head of the European desk Stephen Jones in the interim.
Global head of distribution Phil Wagstaff says: “2007 was an excellent year for Gartmore and we are committed to delivering the highest levels of service and performance to all our clients. A key part of this is ensuring that our multi-manager product range and our investment trust business meet the current needs of our client base. These changes will enable us to maintain our focus and commitment to these important areas.”
Few would argue that Gartmore is operating under a better set-up than when it was owned by Nationwide Mutual, which had indicated that it was not going to be a long-term backer of the business, but the amount of change at the group since the £500m buyout has raised a few eyebrows.
The fallout from the deal saw the departures of UK equities manager John Thornton and fixed interest manager Roger Bartley while emerging markets specialist Philip Ehrmann left to seek “other career opportunities” following the decision to merge its two global emerging markets teams into a single unit. He eventually resurfaced at Jupiter to run its Asian and China funds.
Other senior departures include head of distribution Paul Feeney, who had been integral to the MBO. His position became unclear after Gartmore appointed Wagstaff from New Star last June. Feeney was offered a “number of alternative senior roles” by Gartmore in a bid to keep him at the firm but he decided to join BNY Mellon Asset Management earlier this month as head of distribution for the international business.
Head of distribution Rod Aldridge also left Gartmore after Richard Pursglove’s appointment as head of UK retail in January.
A spokesperson for Gartmore says: “Changes do happen and the important thing to realise is that for us it is all about the client and doing what is best for them. You only need to look at the upturn in performance on the US range since Gil Knight was taken off the fund in June 2007 in favour of Marisco Capital Management to show that we are doing this in the best interest of the clients.”
Marisco’s appointment has seen a change in fortunes for its US growth and US opportunities funds, with both moving into the top quartile in the Investment Management Association’s North American sector in the past 12 months.
The spokesperson says: “We are not looking to freeze recruitment as we are likely to be adding to the business across a number of areas in the future. We have some 100 investment professionals and only a handful have left following the management buyout two years ago.
“We are also not pulling out of the multi-manager or European markets where our presence will remain as strong as ever following the restructure.”
Hargreaves Lansdown investment manager Ben Yearsley says advisers should not be concerned as Gartmore has replaced some of the managers with strong replacements. He says: “On balance, you would have to say that it is a strong fund management firm and it is just good business to review its offering regularly.
“People would worry if Roger Guy, the European select opportunities manager. Others may be replaceable. It also has other managers like Charlie Awdry, who produced strong returns on the China fund last year, and Chris Burvill on the cautious managed fund.”
Plan Invest Group adviser Will Beighton says: “From one perspective, restructuring your desk down from five multi-manager funds to three very strong offerings makes sense. From a wider perspective, it is a bit worrying when you see so many names moving or looking set to move on. Most of the top fund managers have stayed and the important thing to remember is that Gartmore has been a strong company for a long time.”
Wilson Dean Financial Services director Nick Lincoln says: “I think what Gartmore is doing is what a lot of other fund management firms will do further down the road. This year’s Isa season was the worst on record and with redemptions we are likely to see fund firms cut back on staff.
“Gartmore has some good funds but not necessarily in the right areas and it is for that reason that it has yet to appear on our radar although it may be something the group is actively looking to change.”