GMO, the big global quant-orientated value manager, has parted company with three of its most senior executives in Australasia, including the chief executive and head of business in Australia and the chief operating officer, both of whom were based in Sydney. Another senior person based in Singapore has suddenly left the organisation.
Glen Howard, who had run the GMO business in Australia since 2008, resigned and left within the past two weeks, along with Peter Manley, the chief operating officer in Sydney. A third senior person, who was based in the Singapore office and whom Investor Strategy News has been unable to identify, also left suddenly.
GMO globally has a policy of not commenting on staff movements. However, a brief comment was authorised through its external communications advisor last Friday confirming that Howard had resigned and that Zane Bernstein, who was one of the client service executives, had taken over Howard’s responsibilities overseeing business development and client and consultant servicing. The advisor also confirmed that Manley had departed. “Unfortunately, GMO cannot comment any further,” a spokesperson said.
Howard was transferred home to Australia from GMO’s Singapore office in 2008 after GMO acquired the outstanding shares in the local operation which had been held by staff since the firm set up shop in Australia. The acquisition led to Paul Chadwick, who had run the business and was a significant shareholder, leaving the firm. Chadwick now runs his own firm, Nanuk Asset Management, and is the chair of AIMA Australia. Howard, a former Towers Perrin consultant, was recruited to open GMO’s Singapore office in 2003.
The founders in Australia, finance academic and another former Towers Perrin consultant Ron Bird and colleague John McKinnon, had already left at that stage. Jack Gray, another well-known finance academic and director of fund manager Brookvine, who had stints at GMO both in Sydney and Boston head office, also left around that time.
Big quant-oriented firms had a tough time in the lead-up to the global financial crisis but most have subsequently recovered, enjoying the strong trend to smart-beta products and a gradual shift back to alpha-seeking strategies.
However, GMO, which has about US$120 billion under management globally, closed down its Australian equities fund and local small-cap fund in 2012 after continued poor performance and significant outflows.
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)