Advisers put GARS under observation after Munro departure

Advisers have expressed muted concerns at the departure of Euan Munro, architect of the £18bn GARS fund and global head of multi-asset investing at Standard Life for the role of chief executive of Aviva Investors.

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Munro’s departure from the fund, which has been widely used as a default fund within group pension schemes, follows that of three other members of the GARS investment team late last year.

Guy Stern, currently head of multi-asset fund management at Standard Life, will take over from Munro.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of corporate research Laith Khalaf says: “Munro’s departure is significant and should be a subject for pension governance committees to mull. Indeed we have removed the fund from our Wealth 150 list of favourite funds for new investment while we monitor how the team copes with his departure. GARS has been very successful to date, and draws on a large team at Standard Life. We do not believe existing investors should consider selling the fund for the moment providing it still meets their objectives. However in our view Munro’s departure should not be ignored.”

LCP partner Andy Cheseldine says: “His departure is disappointing because he is one of a number that have gone recently. But the fund has a diverse portfolio and a diverse management team. His departure is negative, but it is not ‘get everyone out of it’ time.

“It is also a hugely liquid fund so it can deal with any redemptions.

“We have the fund on watch mode. The question is whether this rash of departures is just a blip or something more fundamental.”

A Standard Life Investments spokesperson says: “Our robust and repeatable investment processes have always been stronger than one individual.  We have a very strong team culture at Standard Life Investments. The MAI Team is 32. The team draws on the collective expertise of more than 300 Standard Life Investments’ professionals globally.  Guy Stern has been in day to day charge of the team and portfolio construction since he joined in April 2008.

“The creation of and the development of our multi-asset capability was a collaborative team approach.  Standard Life Investments has built up a very strong track record, knowledge and expertise in absolute return investing. Whilst we are sorry to lose any of our people, we are confident that the strength and depth of the Multi-Asset Team, supported by investment insight from hundreds of asset class experts as well a global input from Standard Life Investments global offices, will ensure that our multi-asset strategies continue to provide clients with strong investment returns.

“The MAI strategies will continue to be managed by the individuals who currently manage the strategies.  All our processes will remain in place.  Our MAI strategies have consistently outperformed their targets since launch and we expect them to continue to meet their performance targets going forward.”