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Vanguard Explorer Gains a 7th Subadvisor

A departing T. Rowe Price manager has a change of heart, Edward Jones unveils plans for a bond fund that would be its first-ever proprietary product, and a new comanager for FPA Perennial.

Morningstar Fund Analysts, 08/15/2013

Vanguard added a seventh subadvisor to manage a portion of Neutral-rated
Vanguard Explorer VEXPX. Stephens Investment Management Group is independently running a sleeve of the sizable small-growth fund as of Aug. 12, 2013. Stephens will start with a small percentage of the fund's assets, though Vanguard may increase that team's portion of the fund over time.

The Stephens team consists of four comanagers who worked as small- and mid-cap growth investors at AIM Capital Management in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That includes lead manager Ryan Crane, who previously managed Silver-rated AIM (now Invesco) Small Cap Growth GTSAX, and currently leads the efforts as a subadvisor at American Beacon Stephens Small-Cap Growth STSGX and American Beacon Stephens Mid-Cap Growth STMGX.

The Stephens team has a decent track record of picking growth stocks, but it's unlikely to make much of an impact on the Vanguard offering. Despite suffering net outflows during the past six years, capital appreciation has caused Vanguard Explorer's assets to jump from $7.8 billion in mid-2009 to $11.2 billion by mid-2013. The fund is now the second-largest active offering in the small-growth category. With such a large asset base and so many subadvisors, it's increasingly difficult for any one manager to have a major impact on the fund's holdings.

Departing T. Rowe Price New Era Manager to Remain With Firm After All
In a semi-about-face, T. Rowe Price recently announced that Tim Parker, the manager of Neutral-rated T. Rowe Price New Era PRNEX, will in fact remain with the firm rather than leave by the end of September, as was previously announced in April. However, Shawn Driscoll is still slated to take over New Era and sector head responsibilities by Sept. 30. Parker will continue to assist with the transition before shifting his focus to covering small- and mid-cap natural-resources companies.

This is good news for T. Rowe Price and New Era shareholders in particular. Parker's continued presence should help maintain continuity at the fund while providing an ongoing resource for Driscoll. Parker, who has covered natural-resources companies for more than a decade, also will be a source of investment ideas for small- and mid-cap managers at the firm.

Edward Jones to Launch Affiliated Mutual Fund
In a surprise move, regional broker-dealer Edward Jones has announced plans to begin creating mutual funds.

Historically known for its one-broker offices, Edward Jones has announced that it will launch a suite of affiliated mutual funds for the firm's registered investment advisor platform. The proposed Bridge Builder Bond Fund would be managed by Olive Street Investment Advisers, which is an Edward Jones subsidiary, but subadvised by three large asset managers: J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Robert W. Baird, and Prudential Investments.

The announcement represents a departure for the privately held, St. Louis-based broker-dealer, which historically has used outside money managers' funds and has not sold proprietary products. The proposed bond fund would be available to advisors on the firm's recently introduced RIA platform, which is known as Edward Jones Advisory Solutions.

Morningstar fund analysts cover more than 1,700 mutual funds and write regular commentary covering fund industry news, fund investing trends, picks, portfolio planning, international investing, and more.

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