BT Financial Group has made redundant at least 10 of its investment professionals as the new CIO, Martyn Wild, puts his stamp on the firm. James McSkimming, who left Russell Investments last month, has become the new head of equities.
Wild, who worked with McSkimming at Russell until 2010, joined BT Financial Group (BTFG) as CIO from BT Investment Management, the listed funds management arm, in July. He also became a director of BT Funds Management NZ.
Of the people who were handed their notices on Monday this week, the most experienced included: Mark Vrkic, portfolio manager of global equities, who has been with BT for more than 10 years; Nick Valcas, senior analyst of portfolio research; Ron Mehmet, head of sector portfolio management; Dimitra Voutas, portfolio manager in charge of property and real assets; Sidney Chong, a former consultant at van Eyk Research who is head of portfolio analytics; Tim Rocks, head of research and strategy; and David Jennings, a senior market strategist.
Insiders say the sudden move is not so much about reducing head count as it is about changing the people and positions in a management spill which was negotiated prior to Wild’s arrival. It is understood that the main ratings agencies, Zenith and Lonsec, were informed about the changes only this week.
In a statement to New Investor yesterday a BTFG spokesperson said: “BT is making changes to the way its investments team is structured to ensure it is set up to deliver the best investment outcomes for our customers.
“The changes will see a new best practice investment structure introduced that is aligned with our investment philosophy, and where roles and responsibilities within the team directly support the things we know drive portfolio outcomes – asset allocation, equities, interest rates and alternative assets.
“We are working through the changes with our people as we transition towards the new structure.”
A Westpac NZ spokesperson said there were “no implications for BT NZ as a result of the decision as both investment businesses operate independently and report into separate parts of the bank”.
“Both investment teams have historically enjoyed a close working relationship, collaboratively sharing investment ideas and utilising the broader scale of the group to access underlying specialist fund managers,” the Westpac NZ spokesperson said. “There is no reason to suggest this will be any different in the future.”
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)