Inside Money

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Inside Money: Macquarie loses patience with $22.5m NZ experiment

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Simon Botherway (right) with Paul Glass (centre) and Andrew South (left) in a 2004 photo of the popular Brook Asset Management team. Photo / NZ Herald
Simon Botherway (right) with Paul Glass (centre) and Andrew South (left) in a 2004 photo of the popular Brook Asset Management team. Photo / NZ Herald

The closure of the Macquarie Bank-owned Brook Asset Management last week was a surprise to some - not because it was unexpected but because many thought it had already happened.

Brook, once the biggest boutique manager in the land, had been limping on, trying to reinvent itself after the Australian investment bank Macquarie completed its two-phase buyout of the firm in 2008.

At its peak, Brook managed about $1.5 billion, mostly on behalf of institutional investors. By last week, Brook funds under management (FUM) stood at about $130 million, just about all of which is retail money.

All up Macquarie paid about $22.5 million for Brook , most accruing to former owners Paul Glass and Simon Botherway.

The bulk of the institutional investors jumped ship after Glass and Botherway departed - the former to launch Devon Funds Management, the latter, briefly heading up ANZ's investment management arm.

While the exit of Glass and Botherway was dressed up as amicable, there was without a doubt tension between the independently-minded duo and Macquarie's buttoned-down corporate culture. The tension eventually spilled over into a nasty court case as Macquarie pursued Devon for poaching a couple of his former Brook employees.

Brook, meanwhile, streamlined its product suite and focused attention on the retail market, including KiwiSaver. According to the most recent quarterly figures, the Brook Professional KiwiSaver scheme manages about $10 million on behalf of 438 members - not even worth selling, with the firm's latest website news offering neutral information on transfer protocols.

(Coincidentally, the Law Retirement KiwiSaver scheme, with about 460 members and roughly $6 million under management also closed its doors this week.)

Ironically, Macquarie's decision to draw the line under Brook comes as the fund manager had a few positives to report - its FUM was more than double its post-Glass/Botherway low and, according to an investment consultant, "its performance numbers were looking ok".

The Brook website still displays the manager's philosophical 'four Ps': patience, prudence, persistance (sic) and performance. Macquarie appears to have finally exhausted at least two of these Ps.

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