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Swiss roles need to be sorted out

With so many frequent exits, Credit Suisse Asset Management is in danger of becoming the Big Brother house of the fund management industry.

First there was the defection of Leigh Harrison, the man groomed to be the next Bill Mott, in October 2005 to Threadneedle.

Then group managing director Ian Chimes and group sales director Mark Thomas quit.

Now CSAM’s “star manager” Bill Mott turned mentor, who was meant to retire at Christmas, has decided he won’t retire just yet as Errol Francis, the man who took over the reins of the group’s flagship income, monthly income and alpha funds from Harrison has decided that he is off to be number two to Richard Buxton on the Schroder UK alpha fund.

The main piece of good news is that the group’s multi-manager team, led Rob Burdett and Gary Potter, say they are determined to stay having spent more than five years building a successful business.

The appointment of Francis, a relative unknown, who was recruited from Baring Asset Management in late 2003 to take over such a large amount of assets caused some disquiet in the IFA community. He went from running £265m in the growth and income fund to a total of £1.8bn and advisers have not been raving about his performance since.

Now 12 months into the role, he has decided to leave for a role at Schroder which carries less responsibility.

What does CSAM do now? It seems that Mott is providing overall strategic direction, which is some comfort to IFAs, with Crispin Finn taking interim responsibility for day-to-day running of the funds while searching for a replacement but communication to advisers has been poor.

With better fund manager tie-ins, it is getting more difficult for fund firms to find the right candidates and it is vital they make the right selection first time round. At CSAM it seems that most of the important decisions are being taken in Switzerland. Given recent events and poor communication, knowledge of UK retail seems lacking. They need to sort out the situation.

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