ANZ Investments (ANZI) is on watch with researchers after the surprise exit of CIO, Graham Ansell, last week.
Ansell’s resignation followed a string of top-level departures from NZ’s largest privately-owned fund manager over the last year or so including: fixed income portfolio manager, Ross Hunt; head of Australasian equities, Mark Brown; and, head Australian equities research, John Middleton.
Both Brown and Middleton resurfaced in investment roles with boutique firms – Devon Funds management and Mint Asset Management, respectively.
Ben Trollip, Melville Jessup Weaver principal, said the latest news was “clearly a negative development for ANZI”.
“We’ve had a positive opinion of Graham for many years,” Trollip said. “The heightened turnover within the investment team is unwelcome as it adds uncertainty to the offering. Given the amount of people that have left over recent months, one would be justified in having questions as to team morale.”
Retail research house Morningstar is also reviewing ANZI in the wake of Ansell’s exit with a formal response expected this week.
Chris Douglas, Morningstar director manager research ratings Asia-Pacific, said the resignation underscored the recent instability in the ANZI team.
Douglas said while Ansell was not formally running portfolios his influence and experience would be missed across the organisation.
In 2016 Morningstar said: “… the [ANZI] proven investment process, engineered by a well-constructed and seasoned investment team, continues to form the basis for our conviction in ANZ multi-asset strategies.”
Researchers were also scrambling for information on Ansell’s interim replacement, Paul Huxford, who is something of a mystery man to the local funds industry.
Huxford, currently a self-described “independent advisor”, returned to NZ from the UK in 2015 after an eight-year stint in senior equity research roles with JP Morgan.
He served as JP Morgan head of Europe, Middle East and Africa equities research over 2011-14 following three years heading the Australian equities research team.
Before joining JP Morgan Huxford spent seven years in various equity research positions with Macquarie in Auckland, Sydney and Singapore. Prior to Macquarie he worked for BT (and Deutsche when it briefly owned the investment house in 1999-2000) mainly in credit analyst roles.
After 22 years with ANZI (and its various precursors) – including the last five as CIO – it is understood Ansell will finish this Friday. Huxford assumes interim command this week while ANZI launches “a search for a new Chief Investment Officer which will include both internal and external candidates”, the bank said in a statement last week.
ANZI has also yet to replace head of Australian equities, Mark Brown, who resigned last August.
According to the ANZ release, ANZI manages more than $28 billion on behalf of 740,000 KiwiSaver members, wholesale investors and private banking clients. The bank’s three KiwiSaver schemes account for about $12 billion of the ANZI funds under management.
Most Australian-owned banks have sought to divest or restructure their wealth management arms over the last couple of years. Across the Tasman, ANZ has already sold off its life insurance, superannuation, investment and third-party advice businesses.
The bank is also shopping around the NZ life insurance business and considering an IPO for the group’s asset financing arm, UDC, after regulators quashed a sale to the Chinese firm HNA Group.
However, ANZ has denied its NZ investment management division or KiwiSaver assets were on the block.