New Managers Get Fund Back On Track
An edited excerpt from the July 18, 2003, issue of Investor's Business Daily
Last January, Jon Brorson and Ken Turek took over Neuberger Berman Manhattan/Investor (NMANX) with the usual mandate given to a team charged with fixing an ailing mutual fund -- turn it around.
The $322 million mid-cap growth fund was a laggard. Its -25.591% average annual return of the past three years was more than 13 percentage points behind the S&P 500 index. Its -5.63% annual average of the past five years lagged the index by 3.66 points.
Few managers survive a record like that. Jennifer Silver and Brooke Cobb were sent packing.
Brorson and Turek came from Northern Trust, where both managed funds for more than a decade. For them, the bull market this spring came at just the right moment.
"Our mandate was to improve performance, but the worst thing you can do is to try to swing for the fences," said Brorson. "We have a process and talent to do the same thing we did at Northern Trust. Look at what is driving a stock's price. We look at P-E and earnings variability, and finally the sector a stock is in."
The fund's 80 stocks are spread among tech hardware, consumer services and business services. The biggest chunk is in health care. Since taking over, the managers have pushed further into health care and financials.
"We're negative on staples and neutral on everything else," Brorson said.
Zebra Technologies`A` (ZBRA), a bar code hardware maker, was the top holding in the latest reporting period. Its shares are up more than 35% this year.
"It's a two-year kind of holding, a long-haul stock for us," Turek said. "They have an opportunity to move into health care because the Food and Drug Administration says it needs a better system of reducing errors at the patient site and the Zebra code can do that."
The portfolio is dotted with top performing growth stocks such as NEXTEL Communications`A` (NXTL), Coach Inc (COH) and QLogic Corp (QLGC).
Electronic Arts (ERTS) has risen more than 50% this year, but the managers see little reason to start trimming the position yet. It's the kind of conservative growth stock the pair like to use to keep the fund growing, but with limited volatility.