INVESTOR PROFILE-Gartmore’s Bennett embraces fightback

By Chris Vellacott

LONDON, Nov 29 (BestGrowthStock) – The man who stricken fund manager
Gartmore (GRTR.L: ) hopes will show potential merger partners it
is an asset worth having says his performance is stemming the
tide of money leaving the firm after losing two key managers.
John Bennett runs around 3.6 billion euros ($4.77 billion)
in assets, much of it inherited from veteran manager Roger Guy
who announced he was quitting the company earlier this month,
sparking a slump in Gartmore’s share price and the search for a
merger partner. [ID:nLDE6A70K3]

Analysts expect a large proportion of Gartmore’s assets to
be withdrawn by clients following Guy’s departure in an echo of
the heavy outflows seen earlier this year when Guy’s co-manager
Guillaume Rambourg quit amid a regulatory probe. [ID:nLDE6AG0O5]
[ID:nLDE66D1X0] [ID:nLDE67G138]

“To what extent is there spillover or contagion from the
Roger (Guy) newsflow? Right now it’s a fraction of the number
that went out in the spring on my desk,” he said, describing the
outflows as “nothing at all dramatic”.

Bennett said he had spoken to some of the biggest investors
in his pan-European equities business, which he has been charged
with growing since joining the firm in January, and was told by
all of them that they intended to stay put.

“I know that to a man and woman, the pan-European clients
have been very good at staying put,” he said.

Indeed, his clients’ loyalty could soon be rewarded as
November has proved the team’s “best month since we showed up”
in terms of performance after key positions paid off, Bennett
said.

An underweight allocation to European banks following
unimpressive health checks on the continent’s financial
institutions earlier this year has come good amid fears of
contagion from Ireland’s crisis.

He has also proved adept at bringing in new client funds,
growing the pan-European equities business from 19 million euros
when he took it over to 200 million euros.

This increase came from two clients following him from GAM
and the winning of a new 100 million euro segregated
pan-European equity mandate in September, he said.

KEY MAN

Bennett’s employers evidently have faith in the 47-year-old
Glaswegian’s ability to bolster the fund manager’s performance
record and retain assets as it hunts for partners or buyers.

Gartmore has awarded him more than 9 million shares, making
him the owner of 3.2 percent of the company, as part of an issue
of new shares amounting to up to 15 percent of the firm’s
capital to incentivise key staff.

So key are Gartmore’s fund managers to the company’s
survival, they are kept close to the negotiations to find a
merger partner, Bennett said.

“I’m kept informed very regularly as to the identity and the
timing of talks… I don’t think the market nor our clients
should be surprised if we (the fund managers) have a meaningful
influence on the identity of the buyer,” he said, without giving
detail on the progress of talks so far.

Bennett said he would prefer any partner to share
Gartmore’s “boutique” culture which helped persuade him to leave
GAM (GAMH.S: ), where he had run pan-European funds for 17 years.

“I happen to believe the clients’ best interests are best
served by a cottage industry structure. I’d rather we were
structured like dentists than factories,” he said.

Bennett, who describes a passion for Glasgow Rangers as his
“greatest folly”, sits at odds with much of the industry’s
Oxbridge-educated elite.

He left school in 1980 at 16 to work at Clydesdale Bank,
eventually joining Ivory and Sime in Edinburgh as one of six
fund management trainees in September 1987, four of whom lost
their jobs following the stock market crash a month later.

By the age of 26 he was running a small cap investment trust
and was recruited to GAM in 1992 where he stayed until Gartmore
sought him out last year.

Starting with the 1987 crash, his career has been punctuated
by market crises and he sees the corporate upset at Gartmore as
just another in a succession of challenges, each of which was “a
chance to show your spurs”.

“I want to be in a league. I don’t want to be in the
Scottish Premier League, I want to be in the Champions’ League
and I’m in it to win it. And I’ll let my clients and the league
tables decide whether I’m a star,” he said.
($1=.7551 Euro)
(Reporting by Chris Vellacott; Editing by Sinead Cruise and Jon
Loades-Carter)
(For the Funds Hub blog: http://blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)
(For Global Investing:
http://blogs.reuters.com/globalinvesting)

INVESTOR PROFILE-Gartmore’s Bennett embraces fightback