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Special delivery from ABN Amro

For ABN Amro Asset Management, the start of the new century has lived up to expectations.

Having ended 1999 with £198m under management, it found itself ranked the 100th biggest unit trust provider in the UK, with its brand associated principally with its Dutch parent bank.

Furthermore, despite many of its funds holding five-year track records or more, ABN Amro remained a low-profile investment boutique.

But just a year later, the story has been turned completely on its head. With funds under management up by 237 per cent to £668m, the firm is now taking around £1m a day and is looking set to become one of this year&#39s most successful Isa providers.

Product and communications director Nick Wells says the change has been astonishing. “We went out on a roadshow at the beginning of last year – which was when the turn-round started to happen – and around 700 people wanted to come and listen. This year, we have had over 2,000 saying they will be attending.”

The company is now building plans for its first fund launch in almost two years. With the news that its UK growth manager Nigel Thomas has resigned his advisory role to the Solus UK special situations fund, ABN Amro has decided to use his expertise to offer a special situations fund of its own.

Over the three years to date, the Solus fund is ranked first in the UK all companies sector, with a return of over 200 per cent, while Thomas&#39s ABN Amro UK growth fund is second. Many IFAs had predicted it could not be too long before ABN Amro transferred Thomas&#39s talents to an in-house special situations fund.

BestInvest deputy managing director Jason Hollands says: “The performance of the Solus UK special situations fund under the management of ABN Amro&#39s Nigel Thomas has been fantastic and the fund currently tops the UK league tables.

“We have long suspected that ABN Amro must have found it annoying that another business was getting the credit for one of its manager&#39s track record. A parting of the ways was inevitable.”

ABN is now awaiting Imro approval for the new fund and hopes to launch in March. Although Thomas has three months&#39 notice to serve on his Solus contract, ABN says it expects him to be free by the beginning of March.

Wells says: “The fund will be called the ABN Amro UK select opportunities fund. It will be a more aggressive UK growth fund with around 50 stocks and will have an unconstrained mandate. So, really, it will be a stockpicker&#39s paradise.”

Thomas is by no means the only story which ABN has to shout about. Its UK equity income fund, which has been managed by George Luckraft since its launch in 1993, is top in its sector over one-, threeand five-year periods. Luckraft&#39s high income fund is also first in its sector over all three periods. The equity income fund was awarded an AAA rating by Standard & Poor&#39s at the end of last year.

Looking forward, Wells says ABN&#39s targets are centred on assets under management. With around £700m at the moment, it hopes to pass the £1bn landmark by the end of the year and move into the top 50 biggest UK fund managers within the next two to three years.

Although the main focus is to be on the new fund and a push on the global growth fund over the next six months, Wells concedes there are new projects on the horizon for the second half of 2001.

With only six funds in its current range and an increasing interest in the firm, it is more than likely that further fund launches will play a part in this autumn&#39s strategy.

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