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From the category archives: Ratings Roundup

Ratings Roundup

Fund Rating Removal

Following a prolonged period of review, Square Mile has taken the decision to remove the A rating of the Legg Mason ClearBridge US Aggressive Growth fund.

This fund follows a very distinct investment style and whilst we acknowledge the approach employed has been somewhat out of favour over the past few of years, it has fallen considerably short of its stated investment objective. A feature of this strategy is its large sector deviations relative to its benchmark, however, more recently stock selection within the team’s areas of expertise (i.e. healthcare), has been particularly weak.

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Square Mile Suspend Ratings on the Aviva Investors Multi Strategy Target Return and Aviva Investors Multi Strategy Target Income Funds

Following the recently announced changes to the management team and structure at Aviva Investors, and the corresponding changes to the named fund managers on the Aviva Investors Multi Strategy Target Return and Target Income funds, we have taken the decision to suspend our ratings on the two funds. We feel that the changes are significant enough that we would like to meet the management team of the funds to discuss their implications more fully before coming to a firm conclusion on how they will affect the funds

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Fund Rating Removal

Following the news today of the impending departure of Matthew Vaight, manager of the M&G Global Emerging Markets fund, who is looking to pursue other opportunities when he leaves towards this year, we have decided to remove the fund from our Academy. Mr Vaight has been with M&G for over 20 years and has also been head of the team behind this strategy for some time. He has been in charge of this fund since its launch in 2009 and the M&G Asian fund since 2008. We feel this upcoming manager change is significant enough to warrant action being taken and as such have unfortunately decided to remove our A rating and the fund from the Academy.

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Square Mile introduces the Liontrust UK Smaller Companies fund and the TwentyFour Strategic Income fund to the Academy of Funds

We are pleased to introduce the Liontrust UK Smaller Companies fund with a AA rating and Liontrust UK Smaller Companies fund with an A rating into the Square Mile Academy of Funds.

The Liontrust UK Smaller Companies fund is managed by Liontrust's Economic Advantage team who are well known to us through our coverage of their Special Situations strategy. In Anthony Cross, this fund draws on a highly experienced investor who has been associated with it for over 20 years. We have also closely monitored the progress of Mr Cross' fellow co-managers, Victoria Stevens and Matthew Tonge, who were added to the team in 2015.

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Update on the Trojan Income team

Despite the recent news that one of the fund's deputy managers, Mark Wharrier, has left Troy Asset Management (TAM) we have decided not to make any changes to the fund's AA rating. Mr Wharrier joined TAM during 2017 and although he has lengthy experience of running UK equity income mandates, we do not believe his departure will materially impact the management of this strategy.

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Fund Rating Suspension

We have decided to suspend the AA Rating of the BlackRock Continental European Income fund. This follows the news today that co-manager, Alice Gaskell, had decided to take a break from fund management to spend more time with her family. Andreas Zoellinger will continue to manage the strategy and has been a co-manager of this fund since its launch in 2011.

We would prefer to give Mr Zoellinger and the European equity team some time to settle down following this development and understand any changes this might bring in terms of the wider research and fund management resources.

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Fund Rating Removal

We have taken the decision to remove our 'Positive Prospect' recommendation from the Legg Mason Brandywine Global Income Optimiser fund.

Whilst we continue to like the fixed income team at Brandywine, we have been monitoring the Income Optimiser fund for a number of years now, and this has not been a straightforward period for the fund. In particular, the hedging strategy did not stabilise capital values as well as we had hoped in 2015 and over the last 12 months. The fund has also been unable to attract a meaningful weight of UK assets.

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Manager of the AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund to retire

Following the announcement that Nigel Thomas, manager of the AXA Framlington UK Select Opportunities fund is due to retire in March 2019, long-standing team member, Chris St John, will assume responsibility for the management of this fund on 31st December 2018.

We view this as a sensible appointment and as the incumbent manager remains at the helm of the fund, we will therefore not be changing our AAA rating at present. We hold Mr St John in high regard, as reflected by our A rating on the AXA Framlington UK Mid Cap fund, a strategy which he manages.

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Update on the Aberdeen Standard Investments UK Equity team

Aberdeen Standard Investments have announced a number of changes to their UK equities desk. Karen McKellar, manager of the Standard Life Investments UK Equity High Income fund, has decided to retire, whilst Henry Flockhart, manager of the Standard Life Investments UK Equity High Alpha fund, and support services and real estate analyst, Adam McInally, have left the business.

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New AXA IM Talking Factsheet Added To The Academy

We have added a new Talking Factsheet to the Square Mile Academy of Funds, featuring Head of Risk Based Solutions Research, Alex Farlow, reviewing the objectives and risks and giving their views of the fund.

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