John Ventre’s Old Mutual exit shocks industry

The sudden departure of Old Mutual Wealth head of multi-asset John Ventre has left many surprised, even though the team reshuffle following the Quilter Cheviot acquisition makes sense, experts say.

Ventre, together with François Zagamé and Stewart Cazier, will leave Old Mutual Wealth in a restructure of the multi-asset investment team following the £585m acquisition of Quilter Cheviot. 

Quilter Cheviot’s Ben Mountain and Old Mutual Wealth’s Anthony Gillham will now lead the combined 24 staff multi-asset investment team as the two multi-asset teams are merged.

Gillham, who currently manages the Old Mutual Voyager Strategic Bond Fund, will also manage Ventre’s Spectrum Funds range as well as the Voyager Funds range with Sacha Chorley.

Tilney Bestinvest managing director Jason Hollands says Ventre’s departure is a surprise for many, especially since the firm has been very supportive in nurturing the fund manager’s image within the industry. 

He says: “The news comes as quite a surprise as OMGI have been proactively raising the profile of John Ventre and the team, with regular updates and thought pieces until very recently.”

Axa Weath head of investing Adrian Lowcock also says it is a surprise that Ventre is leaving the firm as he is a significant figure within the group and has a high profile among advisers. 

Following the OMGI announcement, Square Mile has removed its recommended rating on Ventre’s Spectrum fund range. 

Square Mile said in a statement: ”Our decision is based on Mr Ventre being integral to the running of the range. Anthony Gillham has assumed responsibility and we plan to meet with him in due course to discuss these strategies moving forwards.”

Hollands says the team reshuffling and the consequent departure of some of its members is simply a “rationalisation of an investment capability,” as after the acquisition of Quilter Cheviot there was some overlapping capabilities between the two investment teams.

He says: “The logic of rationalising the multi-asset capabilities within the Old Mutual group having acquired Quilter Cheviot, is easy to see as this is an area of clear duplication between OMGI and Quilter Cheviot. It also marks a step towards a greater integration of the various distribution and manufacturing businesses within the group, a nudge perhaps towards a more vertically integrating model.” 

Lowcock adds: “Whenever a merger or acquisition does occur it usually results in some departures as there are a duplication of roles. So from that point of view it suggests Old Mutual are progressing with the integration of Quilter Cheviot into the Old Mutual Wealth operations and not leaving it run as a standalone business.”  

Old Mutual has made a number of acquisitions recently, including investment joint venture Cirilium, as well appointing Richard Buxton as chief executive in August.

Despite the surprise among commentators, experts argue that it is more important to focus on the consistency of the investment philosophy within the newly-formed multi-asset team.

Chelsea Financial managing director Darius McDermott says it is positive that the multi-asset team “will keep carrying on with their range” and that Old Mutual has said no changes will be made to the investment strategy.

He says: “We don’t know Gillham although he has a good track record. However, we think Sacha Chorley will do more of the day-to-day management of the funds.”

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould agrees that the important thing is the investment philosophy, which advisers and investors will look at very closely.

He says: “People will look at the continuity of the funds’ management but also at whether there will be any changes in the investment philosophy of the funds, which is the most important thing”.