At Janus, Oppenheimer, and Fidelity, new leaders enter at a tough time.
With Japan in distress, the Middle East in turmoil, and Europe struggling with an ongoing debt crisis, now is not the time you want to see a manager change at your international fund. It's tough enough having the fortitude to hang on to your fund, or have the courage to invest more, without having to suddenly wonder if the fund is worth owning at all because of uncertainty with its leadership.
Lately, though, shareholders of many international funds have found themselves in that position. A few cases in particular are worth a closer look.
Lynn has enjoyed much success as manager of Janus Overseas
Janus' executives spent more than eight months on an extensive manager search; having the luxury of a fine interim manager in place gave them time to ponder. So it's unlikely they rushed into a poor choice. But is it a great choice? Will Janus Worldwide finally have the successful, long-term leader it has lacked since the departure of Helen Young Hayes in 2003? Given that Maris will be the fund's fifth different lead manager in that time, Janus must be hoping quite strongly the answer is "yes."
Oppenheimer International Small Company
Instead of searching for a single replacement, Oppenheimer chose to revert to the structure the fund had relied on years earlier. Two managers from Oppenheimer will lead a team of seven, each of whom will contribute ideas. Some have strong records on their own funds, such as George Evans of Oppenheimer International Growth
At this critical time, a shareholder of a Japan fund would want their manager in place to make tough calls between stocks that need to be trimmed or sold and those that might present rare opportunities for those with the fortitude to buy. So it can't be a comforting notion for shareholders of Fidelity Japan--the largest actively managed Japan fund--that the fund's sole manager, Robert Rowland, recently announced he'll be leaving it at the end of April after nearly four years at the helm, especially since his replacement has no public record managing a Japan fund.
The new manager, Rie Shigakawa, does have plenty of experience researching Japanese equities at Fidelity and other firms. But until 2009 she had been an analyst, not a manager. And even after that, she ran internal accounts, not public mutual funds. She has researched many different sectors in her years as an analyst, and that knowledge will come in handy. But at this moment in particular, one would feel much more confident investing with a manager who has had years of experience in a decision-making role.