Will Jupiter’s Chatfeild-Roberts move benefit Merlin range?

Jupiter’s John Chatfeild-Roberts stepping down from his chief investment officer role, as revealed by Fundweb, will give him time to focus on the Merlin funds, which have been through “some difficult times”, say experts.

Chatfeild-Roberts, who has been CIO at Jupiter since 2010, will concentrate on managing the £8bn Jupiter Merlin portfolio range, while current deputy Stephen Pearson will take over the CIO role.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf says the move is positive for investors in the Merlin fund range because Chatfeild-Roberts “is going to spend more of his time” working on the funds.

Khalaf says the range has gone through “some difficult times” recently, including underperformance and team departures, so Chatfeild-Roberts’ decision to concentrate on the funds can only be beneficial for investors.

Over a three-month period, Merlin’s £31.8m Conservative Portfolio returned less than the sector average losing 4.04 per cent against the 3.62 per cent loss for the the Mixed Investment 0%-35% Shares sector, FE data shows.

Similarly, the £1.5bn Balanced portfolio returned a 6.32 per cent loss, slightly above the 6.82 per cent loss for the Mixed Investment 40%-85% Shares sector over the same three-month period.

The £1.9bn Income Portfolio lost 5.36 per cent against the 5.16 per cent loss of its Mixed Investment 20%-60% Shares sector in the past three months, while the £4.1bn Growth Portfolio returned -6.91 per cent against the -7.77 per cent for the Flexible Investment benchmark. 

Among the reasons for the underperformance is the fund’s underweight to US equities at a time when the asset class was in favour, says Khalaf. 

Some of the Merlin funds, especially the Income Portfolio, also had a big exposure to gold and energy, meaning this portion of the portfolios underperformed for some time, says Khalaf.

The Merlin team has also recently lost high-profile fund manager Peter Lawery, who retired at the end of 2014.

Lawery has been a member of the Jupiter Merlin Independent Funds team since 2001 and co-managed the firm’s multi-manager range alongside Chatfeild-Roberts and Algy Smith-Maxwell.

The move by Chatfeild-Roberts is a positive for investors, agrees Tilney Bestinvest managing director Jason Hollands. 

He says: “Jupiter has grown significantly from essentially being a UK retail-focused boutique to a business including institutional clients. It has distribution into continental Europe so it is understandable that as the business has grown in its scope they should consider realigning roles to reflect that growth.”

Chatfeild-Roberts cited the growth of the business as a reason for his role change, saying: “Jupiter has grown substantially and the assets managed by the Jupiter Merlin team have doubled since I became CIO in 2010.”

Chelsea Financial managing director Darius McDermott adds that Chatfeild-Roberts has been the founder and leader of Merlin even before Jupiter, bringing the Merlin funds to the business after he moved from Lazard Asset Management’s multi-manager business, which Jupiter acquired in 2001. 

McDermott says: “Investing is his passion. He is now giving up the responsibility of a CIO to focus on the fund.” 

As the business has grown the dual CIO and fund manager role will have become more difficult, adds Lipper head of UK and Ireland research Jake Moeller.

“It recognises that being both a CIO and a fund manager is hard work although [Chatfeild-Roberts] is clearly quite capable of taking both roles but he probably felt that the franchise is now big enough to focus on,” Moeller adds. 

Chatfeild-Roberts’ replacement, Pearson, joined Jupiter in 2001 as European equities fund manager, taking the role of deputy CIO in 2012 and being promoted to head of investments in 2013.

Moeller says: “Pearson should do well. He has an excellent pedigree and knows the business. Jupiter is very much a business that thrives on changes and will always be like that.”

The move is in contrast to Old Mutual Global Investors’ Richard Buxton’s recent change, which saw him take on the chief executive role while also keeping responsibility for his funds.

“Being a CIO has different meanings in different places,” says McDermott. ”For example, Chatfeild-Roberts’ decision is the opposite of Richard Buxton who decided to focus on maturing and guiding the business rather than managing a fund.”