David Chaplin 's Opinion

A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

Inside Money: Fisher tipped to lose global shares team

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Carmel Fisher from Fisher Funds. Photo /Doug Sherring
Carmel Fisher from Fisher Funds. Photo /Doug Sherring

It is understood Fisher Funds international investment strategy has been dealt a blow with the imminent departure of star portfolio manager, Ken Applegate, and his US-based colleague, Scott Brown.

Both Applegate and Brown joined Fisher in 2007 as the fund manager branched out from its traditional asset class of Australasian equities. The move also coincided with the launch of Fisher KiwiSaver product, adding an important dose of diversification away from the Australian and NZ share markets.

Fisher has since broadened its offering even further, launching conservative and fixed income products over the last couple of years.

The transition to a more traditional diversified funds management group has been spurred mostly by the extraordinary growth of Fisher's KiwiSaver scheme. Fisher has leapfrogged local, and international, rivals in the KiwiSaver league titles with a few opportunistic buy-outs (notably the $191 million from the Huljich scheme last year for about $20 million) as well as impressive organic growth.

The alleged departure of Applegate and Brown, however, would leave the Fisher international equities portfolio in limbo. Fisher is somewhat unusual in running an international equities book from New Zealand, albeit with assistance from the San Francisco-based Scott. The normal funds management practice in New Zealand is to select offshore managers to look after global share investments.

However, Fisher isn't alone in managing international equities from NZ. Tower, for example, brought most of its global shares management in-house last year.

According to the 2011 Fisher KiwiSaver report, just over 33 per cent of the scheme's growth fund is invested in global shares. Assuming the same ratio still holds, the international equities portfolio would represent approximately $175 million of the total $530 million in the Fisher KiwiSaver scheme.

Applegate is also responsible for managing the listed Fisher international shares vehicle, Marlin.

It is understood Fisher has already engaged a headhunter to find a replacement for Applegate.

Fisher Funds boss, Carmel Fisher, was not available for comment prior to press time.

David Chaplin

A personal finance columnist for the NZ Herald

David is a freelance journalist who has covered the financial services business on both sides of the Tasman for over 15 years. David has edited magazines and websites for the financial advice, investment and superannuation industries. Today, he contributes to various publications in Australia as well as his bi-weekly blog for the NZ Herald under the 'Inside Money' banner.

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