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Strong Leadership Lands This Bond Fund on Our Radar

Benjamin Joseph, CAIA

Benjamin Joseph: With less than half a billion dollars in assets, Western Asset Corporate Bond represents a mere fraction of Western Asset Management’s footprint in the investment-grade corporate universe. Indeed, the California-based fixed-income giant run nearly 100 billion dollars in investment-grade corporate mandates. The strategy struggled during the financial crisis under different leadership, but since Ryan Brist took the lead here in early 2010, it has delivered strong results.

Brist is currently Western Asset’s head of global investment-grade credit. He was already an experienced corporate-bond investor when he joined the firm in 2009, having overseen credit portfolios for years at Delaware Investment Advisors and Logan Circle Partners. In addition to his exemplary long-term record on this fund, his calls have contributed in recent years to the success of the firm’s diversified offerings, such as Western Asset Core Plus Bond. Brist is particularly fond of so-called crossover credits on the border between investment-grade and high-yield. With the flexibility to invest up to 20% in high-yield corporates, the fund’s portfolio may appear more intrepid than some of its more-cautious peers at times, with the performance swings to match. Overall, though, Brist’s determination to avoid credits headed for trouble has paid off here, making this fund an intriguing choice for corporate-bond exposure.