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Dennis Stattman, BlackRock Global Allocation

In running his one-of-a-kind global strategy, Dennis Stattman encourages his team members to follow their own paths.

Michael Herbst, 02/22/2010

What a difference two decades make.

The team behind BlackRock Global Allocation MDLOX recently celebrated the fund's 20th birthday, and lead manager Dennis Stattman remarked on its humble origins. "When we started the fund, there were three of us on the team, two of us part time. I brought my own PC to work so I could have a computer, and if you wanted a company's 10-K, you wrote away for it."

Flash-forward to 2010. Stattman, who was a finalist for Morningstar Manager of the Decade, is now the longest-tenured manager in Morningstar's world-allocation category, and the fund has come a long, long way on his watch. Since it launched in February 1989 with $140 million in assets, Stattman and his team have skillfully navigated the rocky road of global investing. The fund has established a remarkably consistent track record, despite seismic shifts in global markets and chronic underappreciation from the team's former employer.

Neither the team nor the fund's success has gone unnoticed--its asset base clocked in lately at a hefty $35.3 billion. Overall, the team is overseeing roughly $55 billion in total assets. That success, the growing interconnectedness of global markets, and the team's new lease on life under BlackRock's wing provide a rich moment for a look back, a look around, and a look forward.

Pigeonholed at Merrill Lynch
The merits of asset allocation and a global perspective have become more widely accepted in recent years, but that wasn't the case when the fund opened its doors. Initially, Stattman says, "U.S. stock-picking was really, really important to us, and we did a good job of U.S. stock-picking."

Stattman ran the fund's stock sleeve, while former comanager Brian Ison, who worked alongside Stattman since the fund's inception through 2002, managed the fund's fixed-income allocation. Early on, additional teams within the fund's then-advisor, Merrill Lynch Asset Management (which later morphed into Merrill Lynch Investment Managers), oversaw security selection in European and Asian equities.

Back then, Stattman says, "international investing was not quite an oddity, but it certainly was a specialty. It was thought of as alien or risky, or at least detached from the mainstream."

Yet over time, Stattman and Ison honed their craft and expanded their operation. Dan Chamby joined the team in 1993 as an analyst, playing a big role in fixed income and currencies, and later stepped into the comanager role in 2004. Several senior analysts who also came on board in the early 1990s remain with the fund to this day. Over that stretch, management developed key relationships with people working in other capacities within Merrill Lynch, including Aldo Roldan, who would later officially join the team and become comanager.

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