Today, Morningstar revealed the winners of the 2020 Morningstar Awards for Investing Excellence in three categories: Outstanding Portfolio Manager, Rising Talent, and Exemplary Stewardship. The winners of each award demonstrate the industry's very best attributes, including investment skill, the courage to differ from the consensus to benefit investors, and an alignment of interests with the strategies' investors.
Firms that were nominated for the Exemplary Stewardship Award have all carefully nourished an "investors first" culture that shows in strong results for shareholders. The Outstanding Portfolio Manager nominees have distinguished themselves by staying true to their processes, building strong research teams, and delivering topnotch long-term returns. Finally, the Rising Talent nominees have excelled over their shorter tenures and show great leadership potential.
Morningstar's manager research analysts chose the winners from short lists of nominees that they compiled based on the criteria in each category. The analysts considered in-depth qualitative evaluations of each nominee and then voted for those they found most deserving.
The named winners follow.
Outstanding Portfolio Manager Jerome Clark T. Rowe Price Target-Date Retirement Series Jerome Clark is a pioneer of target-date investing. He founded T. Rowe Price's target-date franchise in 2002 when there were only a handful of target-date series in the industry. The firm's target-date series has delivered strong long-term results across most vintages and has resonated with investors. Thanks in large part to Clark's success, T. Rowe Price's multi-asset organization now oversees $360 billion in assets, including $226 billion in target-date strategies.
The T. Rowe Price Retirement series--the firm's legacy offering--stood out from the crowd from the start with a more aggressive equity glide path than most peers, which has influenced its long-term success. The team has also continually honed its process, adjusting the series' equity and fixed-income suballocations over time. The team believes the biggest risk that retirees face is a savings shortfall, and a high equity weighting helps combat that risk; many competitors have increased equity exposures over time. Under Clark's leadership, T. Rowe Price increased its equity allocations across the target-date series in February 2020. Although the timing was less than ideal, the team is phasing in these changes over a couple of years, and Clark remains confident that the higher equity allocation is critical for investor success.
Clark will be stepping down as a portfolio manager on the target-date strategies at the start of 2021. His transition has been well-telegraphed, and part of his legacy is leaving the target-date series in strong hands. Clark's successor is Wyatt Lee, who was a 2020 nominee for the Morningstar Awards for Investing Excellence--Rising Talent.
Rising Talent Mohit Mittal Pimco Mohit Mittal's impressive analytical, quantitative, and leadership skills have helped him ascend the ranks of Pimco's investment organization. Mittal joined Pimco in 2007 and began as a specialist on the firm's interest-rates and derivatives trading desk. He later joined the U.S. investment-grade corporate trading desk, while demonstrating enough skill as a generalist portfolio manager to take on oversight of various diversified bond separate-account portfolios. Pimco named him a comanager on several funds in the United States and Europe in 2016, including Silver-rated Pimco Investment Grade Credit Bond PIGIX. At the end of 2019, he became a comanager on Pimco Total Return PTTRX--the firm's flagship strategy under bond legend Bill Gross--whose shares receive Gold and Silver ratings.
In addition to his portfolio management responsibilities, Mittal oversees the firm's U.S. investment-grade, high-yield, and emerging-markets corporate credit portfolio managers, who support more than $200 billion in dedicated credit accounts and execute corporate trades for diversified portfolios. Mittal has been instrumental in establishing processes that make it easier for the firm's corporate portfolio managers to quickly identify and take advantage of opportunities and in ensuring that the trading desks he oversees have access to the same tools and approach the market with a consistent framework. He's had an impact on the team's ability to get down into the details for dedicated credit portfolios as well as to identify large, scalable credit plays for diversified portfolios.
Exemplary Stewardship T. Rowe Price T. Rowe Price has a strong, consistent culture that the firm has maintained through the years, even in the wake of retirements, some unexpected departures, and headwinds for active management. The firm's success is rooted in its fundamental approach to active management and deep analyst bench. Investors benefit from managers' generally long tenures at the firm, well-planned manager transitions, the firm's ability to attract and retain talent, and reasonable costs for active management. The firm takes a long-term, investor-focused approach to its business. It avoids trendy fund launches and closes strategies when they near capacity. T. Rowe Price handles succession planning well, including recent retirements within fixed income; transitions of six months to a year are common. Management tends to get the right people in the right seats, so there aren't many managers who don't work out, which minimizes disruption to the end investor. Strategies also tend to stay fairly consistent over time, so investors generally can keep owning them throughout a manager change.
Even amid a global slowdown, T. Rowe Price plans to keep hiring on the investment side. The firm hired in past downturns while some competitors faced layoffs, reflecting the power of its healthy corporate balance sheet and commitment to maintaining its investment edge in an increasingly competitive industry. In recent years, the firm has bolstered resources in its critical multi-asset group, responsible for much of its asset growth, as well as the increasingly impressive quantitative team. Its equity division remains top of mind, too: The firm has made experienced hires in key areas such as healthcare.
Morningstar analysts Bobby Blue, Garrett Heine, Bridget Hughes, Katie Rushkewicz Reichart, Miriam Sjoblom, and Connor Young contributed to this article.