A well-resourced team and substantial retirement research bolster the case for the JPMorgan SmartRetirement target-date series, despite recent stumbles on the tactical-allocation front.
Veterans such as lead manager Dan Oldroyd guide this effort. He served as deputy to former lead skipper Anne Lester from 2010 through May 2020. Lester's departure was a significant blow, and there has been other turnover as well. However, Oldroyd is still backed by experienced personnel in the primary areas of focus—retirement research, tactical allocation, and manager selection. The team also brought in Ove Fladberg, a veteran portfolio manager on the multi-asset team, to assist its efforts. Michael Conrath, who led the firm's 529 plan group for more than a decade, took over as chief retirement strategist after his predecessor left for another firm.
Retirement research has been a major focus for the team. It uses participant data from Chase Bank as well as the Employee Benefit Research Institute to help formulate its glide path. That led to the development of its SmartSpending program, woven into this series in 2021-22. The firm devised SmartSpending to help investors fund discretionary spending throughout retirement by orbiting around the long-term risk profile of a blended index that's 40% MSCI ACWI and 60% Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond. The program is geared for the investor to sell off shares of the investment annually. This approach requires active involvement from retirement plan participants to draw down their savings—not a given in the set-it-and-forget-it world of target-date funds—but the team cut its teeth researching the behavior of plan participants, and we remain confident that it can execute.
The team also had a previous history of making savvy tactical-allocation calls. However, the team's calls detracted value in the market volatility of 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, and the first half of 2023. At times the series has missed out on equity rebounds by being too conservative—that was the case in the first three quarters of 2023, for example. But it was also overweight stocks coming into 2022, which hurt in the early stages of that year's bear market. The team hasn’t necessarily lost its ability to make correct calls—it added value in 2020's up-and-down market—but these issues bear watching.