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Neptune and Britannic in row over fund roles

A row has erupted between Britannic Asset Management and Neptune over the departures of Oliver Russ and Barry Norris’ to run Britannic’s European fund boutique.

Neptune issued a statement claiming that Britannic’s press release was “highly misleading” in suggesting that Russ managed the Neptune European opportunities fund along with Norris.

Neptune says Russ had nothing to do with the European opportunities fund but he was co-manager of the Quilter private growth portfolio fund and was support manager to Robin Geffen on the Neptune UK equity fund and the Neptune managed fund.

Britannic responded with a statement saying that Russ’s experience in UK equities is relevant to running European equities and he has covered financials for the UK and European markets and has worked closely with Norris. Britannic says that they jointly had input into the Neptune European opportunities fund.

Quill Communications director Gordon Puckey – acting for Neptune – says: “It is clear that Britannic are now trying to make more of Oliver Russ’s credentials than in their original press release. The fact stands that he was never co-managing the Neptune opportunities fund, as the Britannic release suggests. Intermediaries have a right to know the facts, as it is they who will be asked to support Britannic’s new fund.”

Cauldron director Jain Castiau, PR for Britannic, says:”I do not think that there is a spat at all. We stand by our statements.”

THE STATEMENTSQuill on behalf of NeptuneWe feel it is misleading to suggest, as Britannic appear to do, that the two managers worked exclusively together as a team on the Neptune European Opportunities Fund, as this was certainly not the case. Nor is it a fair reflection of the Neptune investment approach and philosophy. The success of the Neptune European Opportunities Fund can be attributed to the combination of a robustinvestment process, a talented fund manager and the abilities of a skilled team of investment professionals. This is true across our entire range of funds where the emphasis is placed upon a team approach to fund management. Barry Norris managed Neptune European Opportunities with the support of the whole investment team and although we are sorry to see that manager depart, we are confident that the process and team structure we have in place is able tosupport continued strong performance, certainly whilst a suitable replacement is identified and given time to settle in.

Oliver Russ’s role here was not, as is implied, one of co-manager to Barry Norris. In fact, Oliver worked with myself on the Quilter Private Growth and Neptune UK Equity funds, whilst also providing Neptune fund managers with sectorial research on Global Financials. I will continue to act as lead manager on those funds whilst the sectorial research responsibility has been reassigned internally.

I trust this sheds some light on the matter.

Cauldron Consulting on behalf of Britannic Asset ManagementWe stand by the content of our original press release. Oliver Russ certainly has experience in managing UK equities, an essential element of the pan-European portfolios which the new company will also be running. Furthermore, he has been an analyst covering ‘financials’ for the UK and European markets and for some time has worked very closely with Barry Norris, their joint input being instrumental in the success of the Neptune European Opportunities Fund.

You may be interested to know that Jonathan Polin, Sales and Marketing Director of Britannic Asset Management, did contact Neptune before the announcement with the explicit aim of giving them sight of the release before it went out but Robin Geffen did not return his calls.

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